Mirror Mirror – a social alignment process for effective project execution.

Basics – Information gaps, assumptions, misunderstandings, interpretations, personal biases, and social and environmental influences. In today’s complex working environments, the scope for misalignment between people in teams is immense and the implications are vast. When it comes to project execution, misalignment between people leads to poor quality decisions and actions, wasted time and money, frustration and confusion. This erodes motivation, effectiveness, innovation, and performance and it’s only going to get worse.

Dispersed teams, diverse teams, and short-term project teams – increasingly, the future of work will be made up of people who are expected to collaborate but hardly get to meet. Upcoming customer demands for tailored products, and for faster and more cost-effective delivery means organizations will need a capable, agile, and aligned workforce to contribute to and implement the strategy.

In recent years, a new field has been emerging in the social sciences literature called Social Alignment.  It differs from the more commonly understood area, ‘strategic alignment’, which refers to the connection of employee goals with team and organizational goals.  Social Alignment is defined as being when people have a ‘shared current reality’ and has three components:

  1. Shared cognition: people have a collective understanding of their shared context
  2. Social participation: people interact with each other effectively
  3. Personal relevance: the purpose of the individual links to the purpose of the team.

Social Alignment has its roots in Social Constructivism that originated in the 1970’s. It is a theory that sees meaning as relativist and not focused on ‘the way things are’ but ‘the sense people make of them’.  Up to now, managing the gaps in how people perceive things (managing social alignment) has been either left to chance or handled with long-winded, inefficient conversations. In some cases, social misalignment is ignored because it’s not recognized as being significant.

Corporate communication activities, while setting the frame, are not meaningful enough to be actionable, and much emphasis is placed on the Line Manager / Team Leader to bridge the gap. However, without effective tools or processes, this is a difficult job. Where do you start if you don’t know where the main social alignment gaps are, if you’re not used to switching hats from leader to facilitator, and if you’re bound by your own perceptions?

Mirror Mirror is an externally facilitated process that accelerates social alignment in teams for improved effectiveness, performance and innovation with all team members and the team leader as participants.  It is rapid, practical, immediate, actionable, structured, repeatable and measurable. It shares ‘agile’ philosophies, emphases team-driven ownership and action, and creates a better team culture of openness, respect and inclusivity.

Summary – In 2016, a short and structured facilitation process focused exclusively on facilitating Social Alignment was developed in The Netherlands.  It takes three logical steps:

social alignment

Perceptions are captured using 1-1 guided, anonymous interviews (45 minutes per person). The focus of the question is not personal, but on the views of the individual as relevant to the achievement of the team goals.

The interview data is compared and presented in visualizations using proprietary software and these are reflected to the team as the starting point for dialogue sessions. In this way, the information is already owned by the participants and there is no external party ‘telling’ them what they need to do better or differently.  The content is entirely linked to the team context, giving relevance and immediacy.

Participants are briefed that the objective of the workshop is not for everyone to agree with each other, but rather to use the insights as a starting point to explore their common ground and differences. In this way, the compatibilities or barriers to progress can be identified and addressed.

Case studies show lasting benefits in the following areas, as rated by participants.

  1. Improved team decision and actions
  2. Improved team connections
  3. Creation of a more respectful, open, and inclusive communications culture
  4. Creation of useful feedback for participants, the team leader, and the wider organization.

Social Alignment is a multidisciplinary topic, covering HR, Communications, Organizational Effectiveness, and Leadership. It also embraces Diversity & Inclusiveness, agile working, and the employee voice.  Because it leads to more effective implementation, Social Alignment is both a strategic driver and a source of competitive advantage.

Target audience – Team Leaders / Operational and IT Managers & Directors; HR / Communications / Learning / OE leaders and practitioners.

Scope and constraints –  Ideal for any team that is new, virtual, in change or in trouble. Requires external facilitation at the outset with costs per participant.

Website –For copies of Mirror Mirror case studies and more information, please visit www.mirrormirrorhub.com.