Alignment may be good for your car but not your organization

Recently our car was driving a little funny, so Paul  took it in to see if it needed an alignment.  The problem was actually the tires, not the alignment, although the symptoms were similar.  A car that’s out of alignment will pull to the side, or shake as you gain speed.  As I think about the Christian organization, it seems that alignment might also be a sign of health there, just like in my car.  But a new article on Harvard Business Review suggests the opposite:  too much alignment is not necessarily good for us.

We may think the best way to succeed in our purpose is to cultivate a  culture of loyalty and agreement. In such an environment, those who speak out or speak up about different ideas or potential pitfalls are often quickly silenced.    Such an approach may look like harmony but in reality stifles creativity and growth, as the article explains.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

“The problem is that a lack of discord looks like harmony, even happiness, which in turn suppresses constructive conflict further.” The more we push for external conformity and agreement, the less we benefit from sharpening one another.

“The challenge is finding a level of discord that raises legitimate concerns, without overwhelming workers.”  No one wants to live in a world of constant conflict, either!  We need to seek the middle ground.

“But especially now, when we are facing unprecedented change, too many leaders instinctively seek alignment as an end in itself, rather than as a precondition for the real work of leadership — which is to use all of our capacity, including healthy conflict and competition, to create winning, sustainable results.”  Change and insecurity may push us to accept alignment for its own sake, without paying attention to where we are actually going. It’s not hard to think of “over-aligned” groups that actually turn out to be cults.

We really shouldn’t have to look to HBR to figure this out, though.  It was described clearly for us about two millennia ago like this:  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. . . . But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (I cor 12:12, 18-20) All the parts are needed, for all are crucial parts of the body of Christ..

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