As much as we recoil from even the thought of teeth and the dentist, one word in particular reminds us of our not-so-beloved orthodontist … and the many times we spent in his chair straightening and tightening our braces.

[By the way, our teeth remain as charmingly crooked as they did before treatment.]

The word also calls up memories of siblings playing with trains, and their continual work to keep them running on track.

If you haven’t guessed by now, the magical nine letters spell “alignment.”  And it’s a concept we’re run across way too many times.

Actually, we have no real problem with the philosophy.  In most cases, alignment is, after all, a needed activity, linking corporate goals with project and employee goals.  It started, not surprisingly, as an IT initiative in the 1990s, then gradually morphed into an effort that gets everyone, from executives to customer care reps, on the same page. 

And it does benefit the organization:  establishing trust among different functions, developing and following processes for decision-making and control, and managing risks, among other values.

What bugs us is the indiscriminate use of the term to apply to, yup, literally anything corporate that needs to be linked to a project or initiative.  There are alignment workshops galore.  Sessions to explore our innermost connections.  Consensus reports that detail who’s bought in, who hasn’t, and who’s on the fence.  It’s a lot of paper and a lot of time that could, very easily, be diagrammed and discussed in a few regular meetings and cascaded through lunch ‘n’ learns (with, of course, continual reinforcement of the agreements). 

Save us.  Please.  The alignment we’re seeking is the familiar bond between people … using simple agreements to ensure business togetherness.