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Focus on alignment before implementing change

When it comes to organizational transformation, it’s easy to dive in and tackle the changes that need to be made.

It’s true that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals. This is often linked to employee resistance, poor management and ineffective communication. When it comes to understanding change and how to really shift and transform organizations, we must focus on people, relationships and alignment.


Knowing what makes us human, how our brains work and how we feel about fairness are all important areas to understand when it comes to change. It’s crucial to remember that our brains are much the same as when we were cave people, in the sense that our brain’s core purpose is to keep us safe. We’re hard wired to protect ourselves and, as a result, try to predict what will happen.

When we recognize this, it’s easier to understand more about our behavior.

Map that to times of change, which are full of ambiguity, confusion and uncertainty. It’s no wonder we don’t do well when there’s huge upheaval, lots of unknown outcomes and lack of leadership or communication.


We don’t often talk about relationships in the workplace — we think about our relationships with partners, friends and family. However, it’s important to remember we are all in a relationship with different people across the organization.

Relationships should be built on mutual respect, fairness and trust. If we don’t have those as foundations in our organizations, we are really going to struggle. Relationships work best when there is honest and clear communication. When there is a foundation of trust between those involved. When there is respect for the skills and insights each party brings. And when we all look out for each other and the organization.

If you don’t have positive work relationships like this in place, how can you expect change to work? Without them, our brains don’t feel safe and can’t predict what will happen. As a result, we feel threatened.


Alignment is at the core of the issue when it comes to the failure of any change programs. Sometimes we start to implement change without considering if everyone is aligned to it.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re introducing a new technology, a change of business ownership or the evolution of the strategy; if influential stakeholders in the change process aren’t aligned, it causes issues.

As a board or a leadership team, is everyone aligned and supportive? Or is there dysfunction in that team, with individuals focusing on their own agenda or goals? If there is no alignment at the top, there won’t be anywhere else in the organization.

That’s why leadership alignment to change is so key.

We then need to ensure that employees across the organization are united in delivering on the strategy, objectives and goals. To truly create an engaging and efficient business, there must be this orientation with everyone aiming for the same thing — and, most importantly, wanting to!

I frequently talk about how often we rush to fix things in the hope of eliminating a feeling of chaos we might have. Trying to find quick answers to deep questions is where the risk is. If we don’t spend time on alignment as a constant, before the need to change or before the chaos happens, then we must be prepared for failure.

Just like the alignment of wheels, when they become misaligned you’re knocked off course and quickly going in the wrong direction, tires squealing!

3 Ways to Improve Alignment When You’re Going Through Change

As a communicator, how can you ensure there is alignment in your organization to be prepared for change? How can you ensure you have an engaged and efficient workforce?

1. Take your time. Spend time with the leadership team to make sure they are aligned. If there are areas of dysfunction, you need to get uncomfortable to dig into the root cause. If you don’t spend the time doing this, any efforts on communication and engagement will quickly unravel.

2. Manage your stakeholders. Invest time in your stakeholder management. If you’re looking to align everyone, you must understand everyone and their interests in the organization. Do you have a clear stakeholder map that identifies groups with impact and influence? Have you reviewed it recently?

3. Encourage dialogue. Make sure there is space for two-way conversations. If people and relationships are the foundation of the alignment, it’s important to make space for discussion and engagement. We can’t tell people what to do and simply expect them to follow us.

If you’re looking at business transformation over the next year, now is the time to invest in alignment. Make sure your leaders and line managers understand the importance of communication and engagement in achieving this, and the impact it will have on the desired outcomes.

Jenni Field

Jenni Field is an international speaker, author, podcaster and business communications strategist. In a career spanning nearly 20 years, she has worked in the pharmaceutical, defense, retail, hospitality and not-for-profit sectors. It is this experience that contributed to the development of The Field Model™ and her book, “Influential Internal Communication.” Field has her own podcast, Redefining Communications with Jenni Field, and she co-hosts the award-winning podcast Calm Edged Rebels.

This blog first appeared at Catalyst.IABC.com and is republished here with permission.