The Magic of Alignment
I’m spending a lot more time these days thinking about ways to keep organizations growing. However, it’s not just revenue that’s on my mind. As we bid 2022 adieu, and welcome the new year, a leader’s ability to grow organizations comes in many other forms.
I’m realizing that as we grow, my ability to touch everyone in the organization is getting harder. It makes me marvel at those who have led much larger companies than ours and how they’ve managed to drive a passion and culture from top to bottom.
I’ve written in these pages and spoken at several conferences about what a critical role our core values have played in our success. That remains true today. But I’ve come to appreciate, after observing other leaders, that there’s another important element to their success. It is the magic of alignment.
When I think about alignment, I immediately think about Mitch Daniels. For those who don’t know the man, I’ll share that he’s had an enormously successful career in business and in politics. Mitch was Indiana’s governor for 8 years and has worked in several White House administrations, in addition to leading the U.S. operations for Eli Lilly.
My education on Mitch’s magic of alignment came while we were both working at Purdue University. I was an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Purdue Foundry, a business incubator and accelerator, and Mitch was serving as the President of the University. I had two occasions to hear him speak and in both of those talks, he referenced the importance of getting everyone in an organization aligned around their strengths, values and mission, and doing that with fiscal restraint and ingenuity.
My job as an EIR was to help scientists, who had enormous success in the lab, translate that success commercially. In other words, we took inventions out of the lab and brought them to the masses by forming businesses around the science. Before Mitch arrived as president, transferring technology from the lab to “the street” was hard. His vision was to simplify the process and build infrastructure around attracting businesses to adopt the technology and realize financial success. In short, he aligned business and science and thereby attracted enormous investment from the business community which then started a flywheel of success that is spinning faster than ever today.
What I observed and came to appreciate more than ever was how deftly Mitch took the strengths of his university, and removed barriers, so that businesses could get closer to the university, and ultimately do what they do best. It has been a win/win.
Of course, I’m always looking for ways to apply what I’ve learned to the parking industry and to our company. For me, that boils down to finding ways to align our people around what we do best and then driving that output for the betterment of our customers.
I can think of a small, but excellent example of alignment that our COO, Tammy Baker, devised for her team in the call center. As Tammy and her team continue to cope with a difficult labor market, she sought to push the pay scale to attract talent, but she wanted a system that rewarded those that “brought it” every day and aligned everyone in the call center to our mission of delivering a great customer experience with every call for help.
She crafted a dual-pronged plan with an attendance and productivity bonus. For those teammates that showed up every day on time and worked their scheduled shift, they would receive a “bonus” that boosted their hourly rate. And then for those that took a greater than average number of calls per hour, they were rewarded with another bonus to their hourly wage. The outcome? Total alignment around our mission to pay our people above average wages and pick up calls quickly to be there for our customers when someone calls for help.
I share this example because I know we’re all struggling to find and retain good people. We’re also managing through an ever-escalating pay scale. My hope is this simple example of alignment will get your juices flowing around creative ways to keep your employees engaged, challenged, and fulfilled financially, while driving important company metrics at the same time.
Finally, as I think about how alignment will come into play in the new year from an industry perspective, we’ve already moved out on several important collaborative projects in the name of making the customer experience better for our parking customers and their customers.
There are so many touchpoints to a great parking experience and technology is expanding those touchpoints exponentially. To successfully build an even better customer experience requires cooperation and collaboration between the partners that deliver those touchpoints. It’s imperative that with each new collaborative project, we are mindful of our partner’s goals and needs.
We’ve already seen through a couple of examples how alignment can be that magic elixir that spurs growth. And I’m reminded of a quote by the late James Cash Penney where he said, “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” Well said, JC. Let’s do that!