I have yet to encounter a truly negative, bad intentioned human being. I’ve discovered that everyone, regardless of how unhealthy they might be acting, has good intentions behind their actions. The causes of the conflict usually arise from breakdown in communication or misaligned priorities… individuals are satisfying their (own) primary responsibilities, are protecting their “turf,” and keep on bumping into other individuals trying to do the same thing. -From “Many Parts, One Body.”
Convergence – Today’s “It” Word
As business people, we all astutely recognize corporate-speak. You know the latest “in vogue” jargon that we quickly adopt to show “we’re in the know.” Convergence is such a word or, as I like to say, today’s answer to yesterday’s “alignment.”
Now don’t get me wrong, convergence is actually a highly relevant and multi-layered term with even more complex implications. In fact, I define convergence as doing whatever it takes to help yourself and others become one, unified voice – a critical management concept universally accepted by the business world.
But Convergence is NOT a Natural State for Human Beings
And herein lays the rub. Deep down we know and value the importance of collaborating, being on the same page and working together. Besides being harmonious, projects get done faster when people are on the same page, communication seems effortless, and accountability is high.
But if we are honest, we know we have our limits when it comes to collaboration and creating convergence. Why? Because we care about self-preservation and our ability to distinguish ourselves from the “rest of the pack” as the leader, idea-man, voice-of-reason or whatever value-add we want others to recognize in us!
And, given human nature, we will do everything within our power to preserve this identity and net worth. Yes, we all agree that convergence and collaboration is the right thing for the project/team/organization. But how we achieve this ideal state is where we, as humans, want to make our individual mark. So is this true convergence or just lip service?
What Unhealthy Convergence Looks Like
Daily, we are faced with decisions and actions that can either converge us with the people around us . . . or separate us from them. If our self-preservation priorities and agenda match up with theirs, then all is good and we converge. If not, divergence and separation happens because we prefer our approach to this “unified goal” over the other guy’s/team’s.
Allow this to go on for months, maybe years, and we could potentially have an extremely silo’d organization on our hands. Now raise your hand if you work, or have ever worked, in a silo’d organization where everyone “professed” to be working towards a unified goal. Ok, everyone and I do mean everyone, can now lower their hand! There are no perfect entities out there.
We’ve all been there. In fact, some organizations become so silo’d that they completely lose sight of what the left hand and right hand is doing. Eventually the gaps in alignment, priorities and productivity are so wide that the impact starts to affect the entire organization and everyone feels the pain.
So Can You Achieve True Convergence?
Let me be clear. Organizations can and do achieve true convergence where teams are legitimately working together as one. This is healthy convergence. And it’s a concept where convergence integrates with self-preservation to create a unified goal supported by the unique – and recognized – contributions of a company’s most valuable asset – their human capital.
Steps for Healthy Convergence
- First and foremost, we need to embrace the fact that individuality is both desirable and a highly important trait that all human beings possess and value. In fact, individuality is exactly why you choose to hire Candidate A over Candidate B. So don’t squash this individuality through a perceived culture of homogenized thinking. Instead, embrace healthy conflict where differences of opinion – and direction – can be openly aired and vetted. Also, embrace the WIFT (“what’s in it for them”) approach as a win-win solution that advances the organization’s goals and the individual’s goals in terms of growth, financial gain, recognition or whatever that individual values, within reason.
- Establish your convergence boundaries and then allow your employees the freedom to do it their way. Spend the time and effort needed to define where people must be aligned and on the same page. Once that is done, allow them the space to be unconstrained. Giving employees the space for individualism is a healthy way to motivate them to go against their divergent, self-preservation nature and move in the same direction. The key, however, is to make it absolutely clear where convergence and alignment must happen and where there is some wiggle room.
- Allow room for imperfect – but healthy – convergence to happen. It’s not about everyone having to sing the same tune or participate in a group hug. I know you just winced! Healthy convergence is about ensuring that everyone is moving in the same direction and striving for the same goals. True convergence is an imperfect, organic process and NOT static. Allow your people to be themselves, and at times moan and groan. So long as there is some semblance of alignment, do you really care that they all don’t love each other?
- Over-emphasize the “why” behind the importance of convergence and establish clear consequences, both good and bad, for bringing individual strengths to the team versus acting as a “maverick.” Remember, convergence is NOT going to happen naturally, it is against our human nature. Clearly laying out the importance and ramifications of why we have to work together helps create the motivation needed to converge. Think back to those silos and the organizational pain they cause . . . for everyone!
My Healthy Convergence Challenges to You
Convergence can be lip service or it can be meaningful collaboration that propels a company forward in today’s hypercompetitive landscape. How you embrace the individuality of your most precious asset – your human capital – while creating unified goals and alignment is the distinguishing factor between healthy (real) and unhealthy (lip service) convergence.
Your leadership challenge as an executive: Become a champion for convergence and break down any perceived silo’s within your organization.
Your leadership challenge as an employee: Become a champion for convergence and break down any perceived silo’s within your team.
Bottom-line: embrace individuality as the foundation of healthy convergence.