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Sometimes, alignment is overrated in product teams

When we talk about alignment, the need for alignment has moved its needle—from the outcomes to the foundations.

In our technology work, the alignment among different teams is so important for the clarity of how their combined efforts help everyone for the product vision and the organization goals.

“To move quickly towards a mission, the core attributes of product teams for strategy, design, and engineering—all need to be well aligned.” says Eoin Nolan in this Intercom post. For many years, I have talked and written about this alignment and it has helped every team where I worked.

Of late, I see the processes to set up this alignment differently.

When we talk about alignment, the need for alignment has moved its needle—from the outcomes to the foundations. For example, why an organization reaches a state where alignment becomes so important for them—why do they let it happen in the first place.

I am talking about the symptoms—the dark circles under the eyes that appear because the teams watch the screen from too close to it—for their own KPIs.

You cannot talk about alignment unless you have spoken to and spoken about the people. And so many aspects of people are undocumented in the organizations—their own principles are not always a subset or offset of the product principles, the intersection of the trajectory of their learning models, their career path, and now in the modern work culture which could be remote or hybrid, they have a new kind of distractions and incentives to work and align.

My first employer was coVeda and they invested heavily in people. I was too raw to make the best use of their people systems but later I realized that they were quite ahead of the game—it was in 2005.

You cannot invest in the process to set up alignment unless you have the foundational frameworks that define the boundaries and criteria of why people work in an organization, why they work in a certain way, what are their underlying assumptions of the incentives, and what could be the criteria that changes or tends to change these incentives.

In my experience, content strategists are best positioned to help the organizations design the right incentives frameworks. Such a framework brings clarity and awareness. Once we have clarity, the alignment should be a lot easier.

Yes, alignment is overrated in our work.

We should eliminate the reasons that fuel the issues in our alignment. It will give us more bandwidth to invest our energies into the core meaningful work—something that translates into the organization’s assets, and into the users’ experiences—the combined bottom line for the product on either side.

Vinish Garg

Vinish Garg

I am Vinish Garg, and I work with growing product teams for their product strategy, product vision, product positioning, product onboarding and UX, and product growth. I work on products for UX and design leadership roles, product content strategy and content design, and for the brand narrative strategy. I offer training via my advanced courses for content strategists, content designers, UX Writers, content-driven UX designers, and for content and design practitioners who want to explore product and system thinking.

Interested to stay informed about my work, talks, writings, programs, or projects? See a few examples of my past newsletters—All things products, Food for designInviting for 8Knorks. You can subscribe to my emails here.

Vinish Garg is an independent consultant in product content strategy, content design leadership, and product management for growing product teams.