As a manager, you know how important it is to get your team on the same page when it comes to decision-making and execution. But how do you do it effectively? That's where functional exercises come in. In this article, we'll share 20 practical and fun activities that you can use to get your team aligned and working together towards your common goals. Whether you're a seasoned manager or just starting, these exercises will help you foster teamwork, creativity, and innovation within your team!
What is team alignment?
Team alignment is the process of bringing everyone in a team together to achieve common goals, targets, and objectives. It is the practice of ensuring that everyone in a team is on the same page, working towards the same objectives, and has a clear understanding of the priorities and how to achieve them.
For example, team alignment in internal communications could involve ensuring that everyone understands a new product launch's key messaging, target audience, launch timeline, and marketing strategy. Regular check-ins, team meetings, and collaboration can help everyone work towards the same goal and contribute to success.
Proper team alignment means that all members understand their roles and how they contribute to the bigger picture. This results in better collaboration, improved decision-making, and increased productivity. Conversely, when teams are not aligned, inefficiencies, missed opportunities, and miscommunications can occur, leading to poor coordination and outcomes.
Misconceptions about team alignment
According to Harvard Business Review, team alignment is often confused with unanimous agreement. The "illusion of unanimity" can occur when teams agree with the loudest or most senior voice in the room. Research suggests that controlled conflict can actually lead to more productive discussions and true alignment within the team.
By fostering productive conversations and recognizing differing viewpoints, team members can become more invested in the decision-making process and committed to achieving successful outcomes. However, achieving team alignment can be challenging! That's why we've developed 20 powerful exercises on Pigeonhole Live to help you create a more cohesive and aligned team.
Identify any misalignment
Instead of presenting your plans for the team immediately, as a leader, consider allowing your colleagues to share their thoughts first. These exercises will not only reveal any misalignments that may have been silenced, but also engage the team in the decision-making process from the beginning.
1. Word Cloud
For strategic decisions like investments and cost-cutting measures, you can set up a Word Cloud with a question like: “How much should we spend on new research this year?” or “How much budget should we allocate for marketing the new launch?” “What’s our biggest focus this year?” Then, ask your colleagues to submit their answers in just one word.
A word cloud can be a powerful tool to showcase the level of misalignments within a team, providing a natural transition to kick-start discussions.
2. Open-Ended Poll
You can create an Open-Ended Poll to conduct the same exercise for longer submissions. This allows for more elaboration on each suggestion and provides a good starting point for discussions. Team members can also vote on the suggestions they agree with.
3. Biggest problems and concerns
It's common for individuals to suppress concerns and worries about a project if they feel unsupported in sharing them. However, these concerns can eventually surface as issues and roadblocks during the project's progression. To align as a team, it's important to acknowledge potential issues and discuss how to address them.
Conduct an Open-Ended Poll and ask your team to share their concerns or worries about the new strategy or project. Vote on submissions and discuss solutions for each problem raised, without disregarding anyone's concerns. This exercise will provide a summary of the significant challenges and workarounds.
4. Start, Stop & Continue
To reflect on past efforts and align your team on newer ones, consider conducting a Start, Stop, Continue retrospective exercise. Start a Live Q&A session and create tags for Start, Stop, and Continue. Allow your team to anonymously submit their suggestions and tag them accordingly. Teammates can also vote on suggestions they agree with. This exercise is especially effective if it's a team you work with continuously.
Discussing the responses with your team can provide a deeper understanding of their suggestions. You can ask them to elaborate on their ideas, either in person or by commenting on them. The number of votes can also indicate the level of alignment within your team on each suggestion.
Align on execution success
After gaining an understanding of each team member's ideas and concerns, it is important to align on the execution of the project. The following exercises are designed to ensure that everyone is moving forward on the same page and has an open and transparent channel for ongoing discussions as the project evolves.
5. Purpose and principle
Aligning your team's purpose and principles is crucial to guide and motivate them throughout the project. Conducting an Open-Ended Poll is an effective way to have every team member post their thoughts on the core purpose and principles that the team should work by. Combining similar suggestions and developing a shared document ensures that everyone has access to the team's purpose and principles.
6. Goal alignment
Team members have personal career goals that they aim to fulfill in every project, in addition to team-related and company goals. When these goals align, the project becomes more productive on every level.
To align personal and team goals, create an Open-Ended Poll and ask team members to submit their personal career goals. Display it alongside the team goals you have developed earlier. Use the comment function to provide feedback on how they can contribute to the team goals while fulfilling their personal goals.
This exercise allows each team member to have a clearer idea of how they can achieve their career goals while contributing to the team, leading to more ownership and commitment to the project.
7. The customer persona
Alignment on the target customer is essential for every team, from sales and product to management. It is important to understand who your customers are, what their defining characteristics are, and what their needs and pain points are. This alignment helps ensure that the team creates and sells products that are tailored to the customer's needs, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and ultimately, better business outcomes.
This exercise can be conducted at the beginning of a project, in all-hands meetings, or as part of the onboarding process for new employees:
- Set up a Word Cloud
- Use one-word clouds for each customer persona and ask your team to describe the company’s customer persona in one word
- Discuss the characteristics and update the main customer persona documents
Bonus tip! The word cloud also acts as a visual representation of your customer persona, which can be shared and distributed to your team.
8. The customer journey
Although individual data points like demographic details and preferences provide a basic understanding of your customer persona, it's essential to have a complete view of their journey for a more accurate understanding of your customer. For the second step in the customer persona characteristics activity, brainstorm your target customer's behavior through a conceptual exercise known as the "Job Story."
- Set up an Open-Ended Poll for each persona
- Generate as many scenarios as possible using the following template:
When <situation or context>, they want to <take action motivated by context>, so that <outcome results>.
Discuss with your team each scenario, and focus on aligning your strategies to match your customer's behavior. This collaborative approach will ensure a more effective and customer-centric plan.
9. The brand persona
No matter who is interacting with your brand, you want to provide them with a seamless and consistent brand experience. To do so, you need to align your processes and client service to your brand persona.
This can be a fun exercise to conduct during team bonding sessions or company offsites:
- Set up multiple Word Clouds, each with scenarios based on real-life examples or potential encounters.
- Get your team to respond to them about how the brand mascot would, in no more than four words.
10. The client situation simulation
Every individual has a different way of approaching situations of conflict. However, you want to make sure that your customer-facing professionals are aligned on the core company values and tone and exercise them when attending to your customers.
When training customer-facing professionals, you can conduct simulations on how to approach a customer problem as a team alignment activity. Simply set up an Open-Ended Poll for each scenario and ask your team to submit their approaches and the company values they correspond with. Everyone can then vote on the best approaches.
11. Competitor-partner exercise
While formulating a new strategy, proactively examine past perceptions of companies close to your business and guide your team toward embracing creative strategy approaches:
- Create a Q&A session using three tags: "partners," "competitors," and "both".
- Ask your team to brainstorm, submit, and tag a list of companies related to your field. Encourage them to vote on the options and challenge traditional views with creative categorization.
- Discuss unique and new propositions, and concentrate on formulating practical ideas for implementation.
12. Define a shared vocabulary
A lot of alignment comes from simply speaking the same language.
Communication often gets derailed when everyone has a different definition of concepts or metrics to measure and understand successes and failures. So it’s crucial that you get everyone speaking the right and the same language from the start.
Develop a set of shared vocabulary and concepts and their corresponding definitions at the start of your project. Then, set up a Quiz or Assessment on Pigeonhole Live and get your team to take it. You can review the definitions at the end of the assessment to ensure everyone is aligned on them.
Align roles and responsibilities
Gaining insight into each team member's roles and responsibilities promotes alignment throughout the execution of strategies, fostering a more effective and collaborative environment.
13. Cross-team alignment
An aligned company is one where all the different departments and teams work in synergy, functioning as one seamless structure. To ensure this, you need to conduct regular cross-team alignment exercises:
- Ask the different teams to present their job scopes and daily responsibilities to the rest of the company
- Then ask the teams to create a job profile on their duties, pains, and gains of another team in the company
- Start a Q&A session and get the teams to submit the profiles they create and tag the team they created for
- Observe how much each team understands the rest and how they can communicate the job functions
This exercise not only aligns the different departments in the company but also helps to identify opportunities for better collaboration.
14. Value Proposition Exercise I
Get your team members to map out their value proposition to the team. This should entail why and how they will be creating value for the team and the actions they will be taking on.
- Set up a Q&A session with tags for each job function or team member (depending on the size of your team)
- Get your team to post their value proposition and tag themselves accordingly.
You can then discuss the various actionable to see if everyone is aligned on their tasks and understand their value proposition to the team.
15. Value Proposition Exercise II
As a follow-up to the previous exercise, you can set up a copy of the Q&A session with the same tags and get your team to update the tasks that they complete and tag themselves accordingly. Teammates can also submit and tag others on tasks that they’ve helped out with.
At the end of the project, you will have a summary of each team member’s contributions to the project and a comparison of the responsibilities that they set out to do.
Test out the alignment
Testing the alignment within your team is a vital step in ensuring a smooth and efficient workflow. By evaluating how well your team members are aligned with the project objectives, strategies, and their respective roles, you can identify any gaps or misalignments that need to be addressed. This proactive approach helps to maintain a cohesive team, ultimately leading to a more successful project outcome.
Before embarking on a project, conducting a brief assessment of all the different areas you've aligned on is an excellent way to ensure everyone is on the same page. This evaluation actively confirms a shared understanding, fostering a smooth and successful project experience.
To test your team's alignment without adding pressure, consider creating a Quiz with a leaderboard. A quiz allows teammates to compete for the top spot on a real-time leaderboard, providing an engaging way to evaluate their alignment.
Promote feedback and open communication
Maintaining sustainable alignment involves fostering continuous open communication within the team. This enables them to provide feedback on processes and address any issues they encounter at any point during the project.
18. Anonymous Q&A
Set up a Q&A session to last the entire length of your project so that your team can raise any doubts or questions that come along the way. Everyone on the team can comment on the question to contribute their thoughts and help resolve it as they progress with the project.
19. Feedback survey
As a leader, conducting regular feedback surveys also helps you understand whether every team member feels their suggestions were heard and taken into account. It also helps you understand if the new processes you have collectively implemented support more productive work.
Celebrate team alignment
The last step is simple: Celebrate your success! 🎉
20. Acknowledge team alignment contributions
According to Inc.com, creating a culture that is centered on alignment requires lots of small “nudges”.
So, don’t just stop at implementing steps that surface misalignments and work on aligning strategy execution. When a project is successfully executed due to an alignment in decisions and execution, celebrate it, and celebrate it out loud!
Nominate team members who actively promote alignment by voicing concerns, challenging decisions, or communicating constructively. Recognize instances where the team overcame difficult moments and prioritized alignment to progress together. Celebrating alignment efforts demonstrates its importance and helps integrate it into the company culture over time.
For this last activity, you can:
- Create a Q&A session
- Create tags based on the awards you wish to hand out or recognize team members for
- Get your team to nominate and vote
- Celebrate the moments and the people responsible for them!
Align your team for success now
Aligning your team on decisions and execution is important for project success. These 20 exercises can help promote alignment and collaboration. By using them regularly, you can create a culture of alignment, where everyone feels valued and works together towards common goals. Remember, consistent effort towards alignment leads to smoother execution and better results.