Alignment: Is it Time to Visit the Chiropractor?

2/1/2009 | Palmer, W., RILA

(Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 3 – Issue 1, February 2009)

In last year’s columns, we started a dialogue on how to be more effective in getting the support of senior management for your programs, budgets, and proposals. We addressed:

  • Demonstrating a “Cause and Effect” Relationship
  • Speaking the Language of Senior Management
  • Knowing Their “Hot Buttons”
  • Establishing Expertise Credibility
  • Playing Nice in the Sandbox: Relationship Credibility

In this month’s column we are going to look at the issue of alignment. Fred Smith, Chairman of FEDEX, has said, “Alignment is the essence of management.” Alignment occurs in two dimensions. In horizontal alignment, we talk about how processes are aligned with customer needs. In vertical alignment, we talk about how people are aligned to an organization’s strategy. This is where we will focus in this column.

In their landmark book, The Power of Alignment, George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky have this to say about vertical alignment, “Vertical alignment is about the rapid deployment of business strategy that is manifested in the actions of the people at work. When vertical alignment is reached, employees understand organization-wide goals and their role in achieving them.” If we apply this to the Loss Prevention function, it means that we understand how our work supports the overall strategic goals of our organization. But, as importantly, it also means that others in the organization, including senior management, understand how we support the overall strategic goals.

In his article, “Not A Moment to Lose: Influencing Global Security One Community at a Time,” in the January/February 2009 issue of LossPrevention Magazine, Francis D’Addario identifies the need for alignment between loss prevention and the organization. “We must be conversant with the mission, values, and business objectives of our companies and interdependent service providers to affect ‘all hazards’ awareness and mitigation.”

Last year, Protiviti (www.protiviti.com), a global consulting and internal audit firm, conducted a survey aimed at assessing the differing priorities of executives and Loss Prevention management. Some of their findings were quite concerning. In their opening introduction, they summed it up as follows:

“Retailers appear to have a problem: Their loss prevention management is not always working towards the same goals as those of corporate executives. While the C-suite is developing an overall strategy that all departments in the retail organization – including loss prevention (LP) – are expected to follow, what they identify as being areas of concern may not necessarily align with the priorities of LP management.”

This conclusion leads to the question, “How can you possibly hope to get support for your programs if your senior management doesn’t believe your efforts align to the overall mission of the organization?” Since misery loves company, I will note that we are not the only staff function that faces this challenge.

For instance, the human resources profession, another staff function, faces the same challenge with several studies over the past few years showing the same disconnect between senior management and HR leadership.

This gap or disconnect could be caused by several factors. Some possibilities include:

  • We have not articulated our strategy and mission and how it connects to the overall strategic plan for our organization.
  • We have not communicated effectively with senior management to let them know our strategy and our progress towards goals.
  • We have not defined our mission in ways that are meaningful to senior management. For instance, perhaps we talk about case statistics without connecting them to shrinkage, lost productivity, out of stocks, etc.

There could be many more reasons for the gap. What are your thoughts? Do you think you and your senior management team are aligned in priorities and strategies? If so, how do you accomplish that in your company? Please share your successes or challenges. We are always receptive to feedback from the “real world.” You can contact us at our contact page.

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Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – Volume 3 – Issue 1, February 2009

© 2009, Walter E. Palmer, PCG Solutions, Inc., All Rights Reserved