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How is Autonomy achieved through alignment with a Company’s culture?

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

I’m sure we’ve all had that one cheerleader of a manager at one point in our career, I can’t be the only one. One holiday, the department secret “Santa” left a pair of Pom Pom’s on his desk with a poster that read, Sis Boom Bah Humbug. But if you, like I, rolled your eyes until you were dizzy at every attempt at motivational meetings, you might be wondering- how can managers achieve that level of buy-in from their teams without all the pomp and circumstance?

When an objective is clear to a team of motivated people, everyone knows what their role is. When people are aligned with the company on a more micro level, there is less pushing for their own agenda. In fact, while they make decisions by themselves — and they trust each other to make the right decisions, they also know they are doing so in the best interest of the overall objective. No agenda. But alignment isn’t always a given.

In an era when our corporate cultures have been eroded by shifts in leadership, mergers, hostile takeovers, and oddly employed rigor-based HR topics of the moment- alignment with a company’s culture isn’t a given. In fact, in keeping with Covid and the crisis of the state of the globe at this time in history, I’d bet it’s a minority that are on board with their company’s guiding principles. I’d go as far as to say, most probably don’t even remember what they found so appealing about the company they coveted as they faced down their final interview for an offer.

Unmotivated people need very close guidance. They fail to see the big picture and must be told what their next step is, every step along the way. This often happens when leaders choose to micro-manage instead of sharing their vision, and doubly so if there is no sense of community or shared purpose and meaning in the work itself.

Motivated or interested people, on the other hand, know their role in getting to the objective. When there is an alignment to the overall purpose of the end-game, there is faith in decision making and the trust levels to get to a successful outcome. An autonomous team requires alignment with wider, more macro objectives for success. Alignment ensures everyone is marching towards the same goal and hence, sharing a common purpose. This is key!

Alignment to outcomes are the primary concern, however, to be truly aligned the team must observe and work within the set of constraints that exist in the wider company culture. The ecosystem of the organization, if you will. These create safe boundaries that can be leaned against and even moved if necessary at some point. But without alignment to the culture, scaling mountains of transformative expansion may never occur.

Autonomous teams that are highly aligned to an organizational purpose are also explicitly accountable.

Having clear mechanisms that maximize transparency fosters accountability within a team, department, or company as a whole. The greater the level accountability, the easier it becomes to operate with greater aligned autonomy. The team then empowers itself to create its own conditions and take full ownership of widely shared purpose-driven outcomes. No pom pom’s necessary, and no eyeball rolling. Just empowered teams, successful outcomes and happy workplaces.

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