At Illustrious, we’ve claimed to be the Leader in Team Alignment since 2022.
We know what it’s like to turn the pain of transformation into the adventure of a lifetime. We’ve seen first-hand the amazing results that our clients get by working with us. And we always find it difficult to explain them to people who are curious about what we do – or curious about whether engaging us would be a good fit.
So, during our recent 2024 Power Visioning Retreat – where we took a look back at what we accomplished in 2023 and imagined what we will accomplish in 2024 – we asked ourselves the question, “How are we specifically contributing to Team Alignment?”
After exchanging some quick blank expressions, we got to work brainstorming the process we see our clients go through all the time – as they move from confusion to clarity, or from a milk crate full of tangled cables into a compelling and well-organized stage show.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS FORMULA FOR TEAM ALIGNMENT:
What usually happens first with the teams we work with is they are somehow exposed to the visual tools and frameworks we use at Illustrious – whether that’s graphic recording, The Grove’s Strategic Visioning or Team Performance models, or the various visual frameworks found in Gamestorming or Liberating Structures.
Either way, there is a ‘Woah!” moment that leads to curiosity. This curiosity can look like excitement or skepticism. And while we’d prefer everyone be excited right away, it’s OK for the team to be skeptical in the beginning. One particularly resistant client said, “Hold on! We’re deciding our strategy based on cartoons?!”
Few people have experienced the science of visual thinking proven out in a business environment. Few people have been through a process that starts out as stickies on the wall, moves into tension and groaning and pushback, and ends up as humans witnessing each other and hearing each other without judgment. But each small win helps make the process easier for even the most resistant in the room.
Next, the visuals tend to create a focused attention. People lean in, either to learn more about the tools (usually posters on the wall or canvases in apps like MURAL), or to pick them apart and tear holes in them. It matters little to us, as long as they’re leaning in and engaged.
At this point, either in the spirit of herd mentality (agreement) or pushback (disagreement), we see two camps emerge – “I’m interested in learning more” or “I’m interested in proving this wrong.” Again, the group’s interest and engagement is what matters.
Once most fears are addressed, defensiveness is taken down a notch, and people are assured that no one wants to do their job for them, the group usually starts to lean in the same direction.
This is when the fun starts to happen. I liken this stage to a pile of metal shavings being activated by a magnet. Slowly, and one by one, the shavings will start to wiggle and vibrate. Then, they turn in the same direction, sometimes piling on top of or crawling over each other in order to answer the pull of the magnet. And, suddenly, in a rush, they are like one body – or a murmuration of birds – having one shape, one energy, one purpose.
That stirring of energy and positive provocation is what it looks like when a group is oriented together and facing a problem or objective arm-in-arm.
Finally, once the team is curious, interested, and facing the same direction, the primary aim of any visual tool or communication is to inspire commitment. The team moves away from dependence and resistance, gets clearer on their roles and responsibilities, has a better grasp on the resources they need or lack, and discovers new ways to plan and make decisions.
This confidence fills the team’s sails and creates a renewed feeling of camaraderie and teamwork. Culture improves, communication improves, productivity increases. Because the team is saying “Yes” to each other – and to the mission.
If you have questions about how this looks in action or would like to see this kind of alignment happen on your team, let's schedule some time to chat.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.