In my last blog I talked about people who dare to break the rules now and then, because they believe a specific situation was not (could not have been) foreseen when the rules were made.
As I discuss in The Fearless Monkey, one way to create space for the right actions is to work from alignment rather than agreements. ‘Agreements’ are often actually rules laid down by the top and it would be better to have rules that come from alignment.
Yasuhiko Kimura, the Japanese philosopher, describes the difference between alignment and agreement beautifully. Alignment is the convergence of intentions, agreement is the convergence of opinions. Intentions are creative and focused on the future, while opinions are repetitions and based on the past. Agreement is not a prerequisite for alignment. Convergence of intentions means coming to a joint decision to achieve a specific objective. A joint decision is then made on the actions to be undertaken in the knowledge that this is a temporary agreement open to adjustment or change.
The issue after all is not ‘Who is right?’ but ‘How do we best fulfil our intention?’.
To choose what is better we must do what is best now in light of our objective and our intention. Alignment creates synergy. If individuals are aligned in their task, their combined intelligence can deliver results that far exceed the intelligence of each individual.
In an organisation based on alignment, a difference of opinion does not reduce the power of that alignment but actually strengthens it and can make the organisation more effective.
Plurality and diversity of ideas and perspectives, united in one shared intention, strengthen one another in achieving the objective.
In an organisation based on agreement, on the other hand, a difference of opinion leads to internal dispute, political infighting based on discord, the creation of factions and perhaps even downfall.
The famous “we agree to disagree” is only beneficial if the parties involved use this disagreement to come out with a shared and better way forward. If it means “we are tired of repeating our arguments over and over again and getting nowhere, so let’s move on”, it will bring temporary relief, but the organisation or the particular endeavour will not be strengthened by it.
It is up to the leader to create this alignment.
Obviously, the word alignment implies that it cannot be dictated by the leader. It’s about bringing together the different lines (intentions) and making sure they start pointing in the same direction. The leader is responsible for the process of creating this alignment and subsequently for ensuring that everybody keeps acting accordingly.
In the next blog, I’ll show another take on how you can deal with the inadequacy and fallibility of a set of rules, as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), understood so well.