Buzzphrase: "Alignment with the business"
This is my site Written by Alora on May 18, 2008 – 2:06 pm

Of all the most ludicrous phrases in the world, this one may be my favorite. As someone who grew up in family-owned business, and whose career started out in start-up environments, I am used to very all-for-one/one-for-all type of environments. If something needs to be done, then do it. No one says, “It’s not my job.” Someone just steps up and takes care of it (often me, actually).

So for me, the idea that a business gets large enough that you end up having specialists who are so focused on their individual discipline that they lose sight of the broader business is something that I need to be reminded of fairly frequently. Every re-org I’ve lived through since I started working in large companies has been done with the express reason that, we need to “align” IT with the business more effectively.

What struck me as more interesting — if not outright amusing — though, was the fact that I never thought about that being an issue for other departments, too. At the Conference Board‘s Change Management Conference in Chicago this week, in listening to the different speakers, it suddenly dawned on me how much of an issue this really is for ALL “back office” disciplines in large companies. IT, Finance, HR, etc. all experience the same sense of “disconnection” from the day-to-day operations of the business.

After my epiphany, I started paying more attention, and sure enough, the issues experienced by career professionals in other disciplines all look and sound remarkably similar:

  • Feeling like the “bastard step-child” in the organization
  • Feeling like the business units “don’t understand” what we do
  • Being self-conscious about being “overhead” (especially in a struggling environment)
  • Feeling scorned by the business units as “not understanding the business”
  • Cultivating an ‘us vs. them’ sentiment, replete with a lot of contempt

It almost struck me as funny, because I’ve spent the past two years in an environment where one of the most high maintenance business units is actually HR. And I don’t think any of us have ever stopped to think that we are actually all in a virtually identical situation. Nor have any of us stopped to consider how a solution for one of our groups, might potentially offer solutions for all of the others, too.