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Alignment & Autonomy

Purpose: A workshop to support your business and teams by minimizing barriers to being agile & flexible and maximizing alignment & autonomy - enabling teams to adapt to change to achieve better results faster. Use this to help yourself and others work in a collaborative, committed culture. Inspired by Peter Smith's model of Alignment & Autonomy, also called Alignment & Personal Responsibility.

Part of "Leading Teams in the Digital Age"

A 6-week online course that will help you and your team work better together, be more effective and reach your goals. Get the modern toolbelt for culture, collaboration and leadership in times of change and complexity.

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  1. Step 1:


    If your team does not have clearly stated purpose, culture and working routines, consider using the Purpose & Culture or Point of Departure tools before running this workshop.

    Before you kick off the workshop, Make sure you are familiar with the framework yourself, and take time to define 3 key things:

    1. Set parameters for what is an acceptable level of autonomy for your team

    2. Alignment: Define what it is that you want each team member to align around. This is generally around your organisation's goals, purpose, culture, mission, vision, strategies, agreements, etc...

    3. Personal Responsibility/Autonomy: Define what it means in this team for each individual to take Personal Responsibility. This is generally defined as each member follows through on their tasks & their agreements. Sticking to agreed processes (like check-ins, feedback, reflection, communication, self-directed, following through, taking ownership, being curious).

    Prepare the Alignment & Autonomy model on a flip chart, before your workshop (refer to video, draw "y" axis as Alignment, and "x" axis as Personal Responsibility, marking High and Low on each axis ).

    If you are not the formal leader of the team, discuss these parameters with the relevant leader. This is an important pre-step because it establishes the frames for the workshop and decisions that may flow from it.

    Once the parameters for alignment, personal responsibility/autonomy are defined, you're ready to bring your team together.

    Facilitator notes

    Tip: Remember the "X" and "Y" axis. "X" is "to the left & right" = horizontal, and "Y" is "to the sky" = vertical

  2. Step 2:

    Talk though the Alignment & Autonomy framework by Peter Smith.

    Supporting Media: This article describes the framework in some depth. For a quick intro, check out this 1 minute video short video by Spotify agile coach Henrik Kniberg. For a longer context watch this 13 minute video longer video

    Tips: Consider asking participants to read the above article and/or watch the above video(s) as a pre-task.

  3. Step 3:

    Invite your team to reflect on the past 3-6 months of the team's work.

    A. You will now build upon the model together. Ask them to think about moments when they felt:

    • High Alignment, High Personal Responsibility (we strive to work in this space. Innovative Organisation, Collaborative & Committed Culture: "Let's do this", "Leadership")
    • High Alignment, Low Personal Responsibility (Authoritative Organisation, Conformist Culture: "Just doing what I'm told", "Blame/Critical")
    • Low Alignment, Low Personal Responsibility (Micromanaging Organisation, Indifferent Culture: "Whatever", "Passenger")
    • Low Alignment, High Personal Responsibility (Internally Competitive Organisation/Entrepreneurial, Chaotic Culture: "My way", "Silo", "Loner')

    B. In each quadrant described above, What were you and others saying? What were you and others doing? How did you feel? How do you recall others feeling?

    C. Capture viewpoints in each quadrant on your flip chart.

    Facilitator notes

    Tip: If they feel they are blocked to being in alignment or taking personal responsibility, by someone or something - ask them what they can do/action to be able to move through it.

  4. Step 4:

    Building on what was expressed in the previous step,

    Now that they've expressed How they can get themselves into the "Innovative Organisation-Collaborative Culture" Space via aligning and taking personal responsibility, they can help others get into the "Innovative Organisation-Collaborative Culture" Space too.

    How to Use this model in the business:

    You can coach yourself or another using this tool.

    Decide which quadrant you are in, by which internal culture you identify with most.

    What are you saying? What are you doing? How do you feel in this space? How do you think others feel?

    If you are in:

    - "Conformist/"Blamer" - What do you need to take personal responsibility for? (Give feedback, follow through, etc)

    - "Internally Competitive/Entrepreneurial/"Silo" - What do you need to re-align to? Look at the Alignment axis. Do you need to reconnect with values, agreements, prioritized goals, etc.?

    - "Indifferent/"Whatever" – Realign first, and then take personal responsibility (actions) to get back into the Innovative/Collaborative space.

    Tip: When you are operating in the High Alignment/High Personal Responsibility Space, you can help others get there too by using this method to get back on track to aligning with the organisation and taking personal responsibility. You and your team(s) can use energy on the tasks that create great results for your clients/customers/students.