I’m in Rhode Island, USA, this week working with my mentor, Alan Weiss, and meeting some potential clients. Last night a small group of us went to a local restaurant that Alan had recommended called Siena, which is near our hotel in Warwick.

As we set off the taxi the driver flicked the meter and confidently went onto the motorway, heading towards the nearby city of Providence. After a couple of minutes I finally noticed that we were heading in the wrong direction and asked him where we were going. He apologised and said that he thought we meant the Siena restaurant in Providence, as that was the restaurant he was used to taking passengers.

After a quick discussion we finally headed back to Warwick, and as we passed the hotel from where we’d set off 10 minutes before, I casually noticed the meter had hit $30.

By the time we reached the restaurant the fare was $45. After some grumbling, my colleague Phil paid the driver. Personally, I was just happy that we hadn’t set off for the Siena in Tuscany.

Graciously, I paid for the $15 cab ride back to the hotel, which gave a cost difference of 3:1 between the ride with, rather than without alignment.

The cost of misalignment to business can be much, much greater. In 1998 a $300 million NASA spacecraft mission to Mars was destroyed because one of the sub-contractors used imperial units rather than NASA’s metric approach.

Checking for alignment means confirming actions, specifying accountabilities, establishing milestones, and clarifying details and assumptions.

Agreement isn’t necessarily alignment. Agreed?

© Stuart Cross 2009. All rights reserved.