Why department boundaries matter so much when aligning

Contrary to popular belief, before the crisis most managers felt they have clear objectives and feel aligned with their immediate managers.

Fully 84% of managers say they can rely on their boss and their direct reports all or most of the time—a finding that would make Drucker proud but sheds little light on why execution fails. When we ask about commitments across functions and business units, the answer becomes clear. Only 9% of managers say they can rely on colleagues in other functions and units all the time, and just half say they can rely on them most of the time.

But in many companies, there remains a massive gap between strategy and execution. When digging a little deeper, you discover that alignment usually only exists on an intra-team level.

When asked to identify the single greatest challenge to executing their company’s strategy, 30% cite failure to coordinate across units, making that a close second to failure to align (40%). Managers also say they are three times more likely to miss performance commitments because of insufficient support from other units than because of their own teams’ failure to deliver.

I've certainly experienced that in larger companies, where most of my time wasn't spent with the team or even senior stakeholders; it was dealing with other teams like IT and security which weren't aligned with mine. And this is often taken for granted so much in most companies, that everyone just assumes that this is how it must be.