Introducing Align+ by Laurence Smith

I’ve known Rob Shorrick since he led a wide-ranging overhaul of personal
and professional development at AXA PPP healthcare, where he was
Group Learning and Development Director, making a massive impact
on the organisation’s ability to handle innovation and transformation.

Before the concepts became mainstream, he championed the benefits of self-managed learning and active alignment between the development needs of the organisation and the individual. Rob’s instinct is never to ask: “how can we get away with the minimum viable solution”. It’s always to push at boundaries and to embed a desire for continual radical improvement – even in organisations that, superficially, are coping on a day to day basis.

Rob now runs a fascinating firm called the Leadership Gallery, and over the past few months I’ve been working with Rob and his colleagues on the development of a suite of proprietary diagnostic tools called Align+® which enable business leaders to identify the issues most likely to affect their ability to execute their strategies successfully.
The tool is built upon data, ensuring leaders can make decisions driven by facts as well as judgement and intuition. In particular, the tool tests three key aspects of an organisation’s strategy:

• Is it robust? (based upon accurate assumptions about opportunities and threats)
• Is it resilient? (and able to withstand the abrupt shifts of a fast-changing environment)
• And is the business ready? (with the capabilities and competencies to deliver).

Regular readers of this column will know that, for many years, I’ve been intrigued by the factors which can cause strategies to fizzle, flop, flounder, fold and fail (I even wrote a book, back in the day, with the blunt title of ‘Why Strategies Fail’ – still available from all good booksellers).

Yet I’ve never before come across a tool that provides benchmarked data of these three elements. Rob’s vision is that, over time, Align+® will aggregate data from a wide pool of organisations, enabling users to contrast their ratings against the entire population of firms as well as their immediate peer group. This seems to be a very compelling proposition – especially because the diagnostics also reveal the degree of “alignment” amongst different cohorts of the workforce in their perception of key issues. This feature, in fact, provides the rationale for the tools’ name!

My role has concentrated on three areas:

  • Many evenings spent over curries and other mental stimulants to advise Rob on the types of analytical cuts of the Align+® data which will help users to quickly grasp the burning priorities (as a card-carrying consultant, this inevitably centres on 2×2 matrices
  • Introducing Rob to my associate Asim Chaudhri whose vast technology expertise was vital in the screening and selection of the Align+® development partner
  • Piloting the tools in a series of workshops with one of the UK’s leading accountancy practices.

The workshops helped reinforce the value of the tools, as well as highlight a few final tweaks before it was bought to market. In the first, the tool was used to evaluate strategy execution risk within two of the firm’s most important departments; in the second, the partners role-played three of their audit clients. In each case the tool flagged potential interventions which, otherwise, would probably have remained hidden.

There was a real buzz in both workshops as the teams debated some of the business-critical threats where urgent mitigation was required.

The Align+® suite of diagnostic tools has been officially launched during the past week, and details can be found on the website as well as by visiting the team at the London Business Show on 15-16 May (stand 782).

I send very best wishes to Rob and his colleagues for a successful
launch and will be enthralled to see the take-up.