The Four Dimensions of Lean Culture™ – Enterprise Alignment

Defining Enterprise Alignment

Any group of people that wants to work together to achieve a shared objective needs to march in the same direction. This is true of any group of people, be it a sports team, an orchestra or a government agency. People need to know where the group is going and every person needs to know what they are supposed to do to contribute to the group reaching its destination.

To achieve Lean Culture, there must be clarity around the vision, mission and values of the organization. Moreover, goals and metrics must be transparent, aligned and interconnected, from the organization’s strategic plan down to departmental, team and individual levels. Doing so ensures that every employee – top to bottom – understands what the organization is looking to accomplish, and how their individual role contributes to the achievement of that vision.

The importance of alignment can be explained with a sports analogy. Think of a football team preparing to walk onto the field. How ineffective would the team be if…

  • No one knew the rules of the game
  • Nobody understood how to play their position
  • The field was unmarked, and there was no way to know if they were making progress toward the goal line

This would not be a very effective team. A business organization is no different. Every member of the team must understand the rules, know the goals, and know how to play their position. If they do – like the members of a football team – the employees of the agency can use their unique skills, knowledge and creativity to help achieve the vision of the organization.

As Jim Collins explains in his book Good to Great, the best results come when leaders give employees the freedom to act within the framework of a well-designed system. By establishing shared values, clear goals and understandable success metrics, leaders enable employees to use their skills and knowledge to innovate, take calculated risks and assume responsibility for results.

Creating Enterprise Alignment

Drawing on the proven concepts associated with Hoshin Planning, the Balanced Scorecard, Value Stream Mapping, Lean Process Improvement and the Leadership Challenge, organizations can work through the Six Critical Questions and establish a management framework that establishes greater levels of alignment and accountability.

Six Critical Questions

  1. Who are we and where are we going as an organization?
  2. How do we measure performance against what’s important?
  3. How are we doing?
  4. How do we decide where to focus our efforts & allocate resources?
  5. What actions do we take to improve our ability to achieve our desired outcomes?
  6. How do we sustain improvements and ensure our efforts are making an impact?

The Strategic Management System (SMS)

The model below presents an easy to use, step-by-step approach for answering the Six Critical Questions.

The Strategic Management System

Clarity Maps

Because the Clarity Map will serve as a compass for all parts of the organization, is it critical that leaders seek multiple perspectives as it is created. Some of the most common inputs to Clarity Map design include: Customer Feedback and Satisfaction Surveys, SWOT assessments that describe the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the organization, and Employee Engagement Surveys.

Clarity Map

One of the tools organizations often use when establishing a refined sense of enterprise alignment is called a Clarity Map. As the name suggests, the purpose of a Clarity Map is to bring clarity to the organization. On a single page, this map captures the vision, mission and values of the organization, lists the top 3-5 year goals and shows the key metrics that will be used to assess performance and measure success.

The activities involved with creating the Clarity Map – such as discussions about Shared Values – build trust and unity across the team, in addition to bringing clarity to the vision. For employees throughout the organization, the Clarity Map provides a clear understanding of where the organization is heading and how success will be measured.

Cascading Goals and Measures (By Playing “Catch Ball”)

With a revised management system, agencies can begin cascading goals and measures deep into the organization. Catch ball is a back-and-forth communication process whereby key stakeholders socialize ideas and come to agreement on objectives and strategies. This technique is highly effective at increasing commitment to actions and results, and at expanding the understanding of what needs to be done and why.

The outcome of the cascading process is that every department, team and individual gains a clearer understanding of their own goals and success measures, and how their roles fit into the larger organizational vision. The organization can then establish operational procedures for using the performance data during management reviews and other team meetings to track and discuss progress against objectives.

Communication and Change Management

Communication and change management is not a separate stream of work, but rather a series of activities to be embedded into every other activity involved with establishing enterprise alignment and achieving Lean Culture.

The rule of thumb is that people need to hear a message at least 7 times before internalizing it. This means that agency leaders and communication experts must be prepared to pursue a sustained communication strategy.

Four Dimensions

The Four Dimensions of Lean Culture is a highly effective framework for structuring holistic organizational change efforts. The model’s purpose is to provide a roadmap for building a healthier organization, where values and behaviors are aligned with the core principles of Lean Management, and where employees are engaged, customers are delighted and stakeholders are satisfied.

Customer-Focused Purpose

Why does your organization exist? If asked this question, would your leaders and employees all have a similar answer? Being clear about who you serve (your customer) and why can have an enormous impact on your business results. Study after study proves that when people are clear about their organization’s purpose, they are more engaged and more productive at work. They provide better customer service and the get passionate about improving the work they do.

Continuous Improvement

“We can always do better” is a powerful belief. When this philosophy is promoted across an organization, wonderful things can happen. Establishing common language and common practice enables people throughout the organization to quickly and effectively come together – across departmental and/or functional lines – to work as teams on improvement efforts that help move the organization forward toward the achievement of the strategic vision.

Cultural Enablers

Cohesive Teamwork; Effective Leadership; Meaningful Relationships – These are the organizational characteristics that enable a healthy culture to thrive. Without strong connections between people, the long-term results of any alignment or improvement efforts will be modest at best. When organizations focus energy on Cultural Enablers, everything else they do just works better.


Samantha Kerrigan