True Alignment: A book review by Bob Morris

True AlignTrue Alignment: Linking Company Culture with Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results
Edgar Papke
AMACOM (2013)

How to achieve and then sustain alignment of customer needs with an organization’s leadership, culture, and brand intention

If it were possible to retain Albert Einstein as a consultant to help members of an organization’s senior management team to determine its purpose, strategy, and core business, he would probably recommend that everything be made as simple as possible but no simpler, adding “If you cannot explain your great idea to a six year-old, you probably don’t understand it.” I agree him as well as with Edgar Papke that proper alignment is the key to business success. Determining an organization’s purpose, strategy, and core business is “the most important conversation” for a business and its stakeholders. “Alignment is the ongoing conversation that leads to success. Alignment is the conversation.”

In this book, Papke offers a measurable and observable approach to achieving and then sustaining alignment of customer needs with an organization’s leadership, culture, and brand intention. This is indeed a major challenge to business leaders. Papke agrees, suggesting, “To confront this challenge, leaders need a systemic framework for understanding, assessing, and creating alignment. They and their teams and organizations require an approach that cuts through the complexity and eliminates the noise from multiple priorities, numerous initiatives, and the confusion of choices and options; an approach that provides a clear and simple roadmap to success.”

I agree with all that except with the word “simple.” If it really were simple, there would be no need for this book, or for any of the other 3,623 books on business alignment that Amazon now offers for sale.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Papke’s coverage.

o The Dangers of Misalignment (Pages 2-3)
o The Path of Alignment (4-8)
o Brand Intentions: Community, Customization, Preeminence, low price, physical wellbeing, and personal actualization (19-20)
o Customer Motivation (26-34)
o The Customer Experience (36-41)
o Customization (49-52)
o The Consultative Selling of Preeminence (76-79)
o About the Scalable Levels of Alignment (88-90)
o Aligning Strategy (95-100)
o Confronting Silos, Stovepipes, and Other Misalignments (103-107)
o The Twelve Culture Keys (116-140)
o The Three Culture Preferences: Participation, Expertise, and Authenticity (146-149)
o The Participation Preference (153-157)
o The Expertise Preference (157-164)
o The Authenticity Preference (170-174)
o The Three Preferences of Leaders (184-185)

Papke provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel to guide and inform alignment initiatives. He includes a “True Alignment Assessment (Pages 207-213) that, if conducted with appropriate rigor, can be — all by itself — worth far more than the cost of the book. Readers will also appreciate his citation of dozens of real-world examples from a diverse group of companies that include Apple, Harley-Davidson, Land’s End, Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), Walmart, and Whole Foods.

Here is what h has to say about the alignment approach’s four elements, what he characterizes as “The Business Code”: Broadly defined, the Customer is anyone involved with an/or affected by the given enterprise; Intention is a determination to complete a thoughtful and effective delivery of whatever is promised; Culture defines how those involved treat one another, the behaviors that define the community; and Leadership, the key to proper alignment at all levels and in all areas, provided by those who personify and exemplify customer centrism, organizational intention, and cultural values.

As I re-read this book while preparing to compose this brief commentary, I was again reminded once again of the extent to which a business resembles a vehicle. To function swell, all of its moving parts must work together in proper alignment, performing separate but interdependent functions. Edgar Papke didn’t design your “vehicle” but he can help you and your associates to make it run far better than it ever did before. How? By training each of those who read this book to become a master mechanic.

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