Total Alignment Blog

Overview of Alignment Infrastructure

By Riaz and Linda Khadem

In an earlier article, “The state of Alignment in the Organization,” we have described the processes that establish the state of alignment in the organization. They include creating a shared mission, vision, and values; building the infrastructure for alignment; and implementing a management model to sustain alignment over time. In two subsequent articles – Sustaining the State of Alignment through Reinvented Natural Teams and Sustaining Vertical Alignment through Systematic Accompaniment– we provided comments on the cultural impacts of the management model. The two articles began with the assumption that the infrastructure for alignment is already in placeHere, we provide an overview of the infrastructure that provides the path to advance toward vision and to facilitates cultural transformation.

The Path to Achieving Vision

A shared vision is the outcome of a group’s dreams and aspirations about its common future. When the vision is clear and truly owned by all members of the group, creative thoughts emerge. These thoughts coalesce into actions by individuals that move the group towards vision. There are many paths to achieving vision, but the one we have seen repeatedly has the following characteristics.

It begins with all the members of the group having a clear line of sight to vision and understanding their role and contribution in measurable terms. Their understanding becomes the powerful motivator for action and for collaboration amongst them. The unified actions of this group gradually serve to erode the misalignments within the company’s existing processes that deliver its value proposition. The substantial savings that accrue contribute to positive energy that reinforces the will of the group to continue its journey towards vision.

At some point along this path, the leaders with access to financial resources reflect on the gaps between their current state of vision and the desired future state. To close the gap, they execute creative strategies to implement new processes. The alignment of the new with existing processes combines to propel the organization closer and closer to turning vision into reality.

Systematizing the Steps along the Path

The summary we have just stated can be translated into what we call the infrastructure for alignment which is built upon the foundation of mission, vision, and values. We have described the infrastructure in our book, Total Alignment. In this and future articles we will share comments about the infrastructure. The infrastructure begins with a systematic process of involvement of the workforce in identifying their unique added value that includes their measurable roles of inter-functional collaboration. We call this the accountability phase. This process results in a set of individual scorecards with five KPIs or strategic Initiatives of focus for every job, and business scorecards containing all the key KPIs of the business.

The methodology for accomplishing this phase relies on an instrument we call the Alignment Map, a construct that lists the KPIs for processes needed to deliver the Vision on one side and the Strategic Initiatives that create new processes for the future on the other side. Mission, Vision, and Values remain at the center. Mission and Vision Gaps explained below are clearly identified in the Alignment Map.

The second phase of the infrastructure is linking the scorecards to the information warehouse of the company to extract timely, relevant, and accurate information on the status of the indicators of the scorecard and make it available to everyone in a timely manner. This phase is facilitated by a software that serves as the engine of alignment.

The third phase of the infrastructure consists of the training of the workforce to navigate through the infrastructure, communicate through its relevant cross-functional links, and use critical information for empowered decision making.

Overview of the Role of the Infrastructure

The alignment of a group of people requires a common center of focus for everyone, and mission, vision, and values serve as that focal center. The group size can be tens of individuals or thousands. The larger the group size the greater is the need for a focal center to which all must turn. The alignment of the group will also require effective interaction among the members. To facilitate interaction, carefully designed infrastructure is offered by Total Alignment.

The Total Alignment infrastructure provides primary channels that carry the status of each KPI of the company to those who are accountable within the organization as well as to those indispensable influencers laterally and vertically. Similarly, the primary channels carry information about strategic projects to those accountable to execute them as well as to the cross-functional influencers. Through such information channels, feedback information is delivered on each person’s scorecard. Additionally, performance exceptions are escalated to individuals at appropriate levels for prompt reflection and action. The purpose is to carry performance information about KPIs and Strategic projects to those who drive them.

The secondary channels of information are channels available to individuals to communicate with peers, direct reports, cross-functional influencers, and upper levels. The flow of push information triggers consultation, reflection, and formulation of strategies as well as their execution.

To facilitate these exchanges, the infrastructure provides useful templates that support dynamic interactions of individuals and teams. Examples are templates for creating and sending agendas for team reviews or vertical reviews, and templates for problem solving, action planning and assigning commitments with deadlines to appropriate individuals.  The purpose of these secondary information channels is to enable the alignment of people through an enhanced quality of collaboration and reciprocity.

The existence of these multi-functional channels and the information that flows through them removes barriers to communication that currently exist in many organizations, where managers often find themselves isolated. As they try to boost their own performance, some feel restricted by organizational barriers and silos that prevent them from connecting with those who can help them as co-workers or cross-functional peers. The information channels of the infrastructure break down these artificial barriers of communication.

Reflection on Defining Mission, Vision, and Values

While most companies have mission, vision, and value statements, few consider these statements as the foundation for their operations and functioning. Few place them at the center of everything they do. Even fewer align their end-to-end processes and their strategic initiatives directly with them.

Mission and Vision

We define mission as the reason for the company’s existence. Your mission is the motivating force behind what you do. Your mission is your purpose. A worthwhile mission is one that serves others with what you uniquely provide.

We define your vision as the picture of your future success in delivering your mission, a picture of success five to ten years out. Imagine it’s ten years from now, and you have succeeded in delivering your mission, what would that success look like? How would you describe it?

Mission and vision each have an important yet distinct role to play. Both statements should be clear and inspiring for the workforce. Their value lies in their clarity as well as their ability to motivate people.

We have often seen mission and vision statements that are overlapping. We have seen mission that describes the goals for the organization, and vision that describes the purpose, the opposite of the definitions above.

We have also seen vision that describes ways of reaching the goals. For example, the statement, “we will be the best place to work by implementing a bonus system,” mixes vision with strategy. Implementing a bonus system belongs to “strategy.”

It is important to eliminate the overlaps between mission and vision, and between vision and strategy. In other words, there is no need to state how successful you want to be in the mission statement, and there is no need to state what your business does in the vision statement or how you would reach those goals in the vision statement.


If you are interested in Total Alignment, then your values cannot contradict the principles that are at the core of the Total Alignment process. The basic principles in Total Alignment are axioms that most people would support. Among them are two: the oneness of humankind and cooperation and reciprocity. *

The first has implications for the way everyone in the organization views and treats others. It implies that the treatment of others is not stained by the lens of otherness; us and them, white collar and blue collar, managers and workers, old and young, superiors and subordinates, regular workers and temporary workers. All are equal and one, although each person has a different contribution to make based on levels of education, skills, etc. All contributions are valued, respected and their diversity is a true competitive advantage.

The second principle, cooperation and reciprocity, has the implication of turning self-interest into the interest of the organization in pursuit of its vision. There is an investment of time and energy in cooperation and reciprocity that comes with the sacrifice of self-interest.

The core values that most companies have of trustworthiness, service, collaboration, pursuit of excellence and providing value to others are all aligned with these two principles. The values you choose for your company should be aligned with the two axioms mentioned above and should be taken so seriously that you make sure they are never violated.

Reflection on the Mission and Vision Gaps

Many organizations are so focused on their operations and on showing growth and profits each quarter that they fail to pay attention to two important gaps that will be key to their future success. Often, decisions made to show short-term results every quarter prevent them from long-term prosperity. The two terms, mission gap and vision gap, are important components of the Alignment Map.

Mission Gap

Mission usually doesn’t change with time. You are currently delivering your mission using today’s technology and infrastructure. When your vision window is five, ten or more years in the future, you will still be delivering your mission. However, as technology or infrastructure are bound to change, you might need to deliver your purpose in a different way. The difference between how you deliver your mission today versus in ten years is what we call the mission gap. Also, you might have to modify your mission if your customer profiles change.

If you are in the retail business, most probably ten years from now you will be serving your customers through new channels and in a different way. You might need to revise your mission to better serve the needs of the customers of tomorrow. Here are some questions to help you determine the extent of your mission gap:

  • Will your mission still be understood and relevant ten years from now?
  • Who will your customers be in ten years? What demographics & geography?
  • How will your mission serve these customers in ten years?
  • What products or services will deliver your mission to these customers in ten years using tomorrow’s technology, and how different will that be from today?
  • How will these products or services be delivered to your customers in ten years using tomorrow’s infrastructure and how different will that be from today?
  • How will you acquire or develop the needed technology?
  • How will you acquire or develop the needed infrastructure?

Closing the mission gap requires developing new models for delivering your mission in the future or adjusting your mission. This will require you to be cognizant of the trends in technology and infrastructure as well as projections of your future customers’ demographics and consumption habits. It will require you to put in strategies and strategic projects in place well in advance of your vision window.

Vision Gap

Your company achieves its vision through the operation of your existing processes, such as the recruitment process, the training process, the sales process, the production process, the delivery process, the post delivery process, etc. With the right processes in place and adequate financial strength, you can maximize the effectiveness of your existing processes and develop new processes to contribute to the movement towards your vision.

Often, vision statements are so audacious that existing processes, no matter how well executed, will fall short of delivering the projected results. If your vision statement implies tripling or quadrupling the size of your company, for example, you will have to overcome the distance between what you can achieve organically through your existing processes and what your vision requires. This is what we call the vision gap. The vision gap is closed through strategic initiatives that serve to create new processes. The following questions can help you determine the extent of your vision gap.

  • What is the size limit that you can achieve through organic growth of your existing businesses to reach your vision for, say ten years, from now?
  • How will you finance your organic growth to achieve its limit?
  • What is the delta growth you will need to achieve to close the gap through inorganic growth?
  • How will you finance your inorganic growth to close the gap?

Cultural Transformation

As the workforce uses the infrastructure and experiences the quality of the interactions and improved performance, cultural shifts gradually take place towards a sustainable state of alignment.

The construction of the three phases of the infrastructure mentioned in this article are the prerequisite for creating the culture of alignment. For a deeper understanding of these three phases, namely building individual and business scorecards, implementing the engine of alignment, and training the workforce to access information for decision making, look for our future articles.

 * Bahá’í Writings

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