How To Build Team Alignment

David Burkus
5 min readMay 2, 2022

Team alignment can make or break the success of any team. But many leaders struggle with how to build team alignment and so just assume that smooth running meetings and responsive teammates means team alignment. But that can be a big mistake, because even a small misalignment in the beginning can compound and create a devastating project breakdown.

Team alignment is a bit like the flight plan created by airplane crews before takeoff. Being a few degrees off course when leaving New York for Los Angeles might not seem like much, but over time those few degrees compound and can result in touching down in San Francisco, or Seattle, or the Pacific Ocean.

In this article, we’ll outline four simple questions that can build team alignment and help create a team where everyone aspires to the same goal, knows their role in achieving that goal, and trusts their teammates to deliver on their roles as well.

What do we intend to achieve?

The first question that builds team alignment is “What do we intend to achieve?” And this question can be used in a lot of scenarios. It’s not just for new projects, but also client deliverables, new processes, improving certain metrics, or just about any other goal relevant to the work of the team. Often in the case of new projects, there are several goals to be achieved before the project is complete, and all of them should be captured here. However, if there are too many goals (more than 5–10) then it’s possible you’re actually dealing with two projects that only appear to be one.

The reason for this question isn’t just the clarity created by listing all of the project’s goals. It’s also going to be the criteria by which teams determine if they have succeeded. And it’s going to be a list of goals they will point back to often as the project proceeds to keep any one goal from seeming too important or to keep new, unimportant goals from distracting the team’s focus.

Who will do what?

The second question that builds team alignment is “Who will do what?” Or if it’s a more senior team “What team/department will do what?” When it comes to team alignment, ambiguity is the enemy. Just assuming that a person or department will pick up certain tasks because it’s in their job…

David Burkus

Author of LEADING FROM ANYWHERE | Keynote Speaker | Organizational Psychologist | Thinkers50 Ranked Thought Leader |