In our line of work, we often are tasked to facilitate cross-alignment. That is, cross-alignment between functions (e.g. Product and Finance), or teams within the same functions (e.g. Digital and Print teams in Marketing), or between companies.
The focus of this writing is cross-alignment between teams. Two teams, to make the illustration simpler.
Although it may sound like a grand term, cross-alignment can be boiled down to a very simple concept.
What does it mean when two teams are cross-aligned?
It means Team-A knows what Team-B needs from it, so that Team-B can achieve its goals or targets. “Knows” here means it accepts Team-B’s requests and promises to deliver what Team-B needs. [Team-B also knows what team-A needs from it, so that team-A can achieve its goals and targets.]
Example: Human Capital (HC) needs to hire five new Product Managers next quarter. HC needs to have the clear job descriptions from Product 8 weeks before the quarter ends. 1 quarter = 12 weeks. And, HC needs Product to give the final decisions from all interviewed candidates 2 weeks before the quarter ends, so that HC could proceed with the offer and paperwork.
There are three possible ways that cross-alignment happens:
These HC’ needs must be explicitly communicated to Product. HC must make this request explicitly. Product can respond to the request by accepting or rejecting it. If Product accepts, then it’s expected to fulfill the request. This is a promise that Product is bound to.
Unfortunately, many times we found HC only assumed Product knew what’s expected. HC didn’t make the specific request. Thus, Product neither knew what’s expected nor made any promises.
Product has access to know HC’s goals. Then, Product proactively extends an offer to help HC achieve its goals. If HC accepts the offer, then Product is bound to deliver its promise.
This is certainly a possibility but rarely happens, especially in a workplace. And, it’s less predictable because HC relies on other’s or Product’s proactiveness to extend an offer.
The manager of HC and Product e.g. the CEO mandates Product to fulfill what’s needed by HC. HC didn’t make a request. Product didn’t extend an offer.
This (third) “top-down” possibility occurs frequently in a workplace. It doesn’t scale well unless the CEO wants to do it as part of her full-time responsibilities.
Thus, when someone claimed or complained that cross-alignment didn’t happen, we’d ask this sequence of questions. (Let’s assume it’s the HC leader who complained.)
- Did you make a specific request to Product, to deliver something that helps with your goals?
- Did you make your goals accessible for Product to proactively make an offer to help?
If both of the answers are No, then there is almost no chance Product will deliver what you need. Cross-alignment doesn’t happen by chance.
This is common sense but, unfortunately, not a common practice in a workplace.