Clearing The Fog When Communicating


Back when I worked as an employee in a multinational organization, I couldn’t help but notice how much value in organizations was being lost because of poor alignment.  Vertically, horizontally – the problem – that I now call “The Fog”, was everywhere.

As a communications leader myself, it was clear to see that traditional communications weren’t closing the gaps. Messages were going TO people rather than being BETWEEN people.  The content was generic rather than relevant. And the result was that people would wade around in mud, trying to look like everything was fine, yet with no hope of being able to run.

We all took this for granted.  “That’s just part of life in a big organization”, we’d say. How could it be otherwise? Today things have changed.

A great article by Lindsay U, a business communication specialist and consultant with Consult 2050.

Where misalignment comes from?

Information gaps, assumptions, misunderstandings, interpretations, behavioural habits personal biases, and social and environmental influences. In our complex working environments today, this is what causes all of the misalignment.

And it’s only going to get worse. Dispersed teams, diverse teams, and short-term project teams – increasingly, the future of work will be made up of people who are expected to collaborate but don’t even get to meet. The demand for tailored products, and for faster and more cost-effective results means that organizations will need a more capable, more agile, and more aligned workforce to deliver.

Here’s a quote I love from a paper by Box, S., & Platts, K. from 2005 in Business Process Management Journal that sums it up[i]:

“Problems caused by misalignment include confusion; waste of time, money and opportunity; diminished productivity; demotivation of individuals and teams; internal conflicts, power struggles and ultimately project failure as well as resulting in time and energy spent doubting, conspiring, guessing or gossiping when that same energy could be deployed in moving an organisation forward.”

Did you see this astonishing chart?

To my mind – the falling disengagement levels that we hear about repeatedly aren’t about demotivation, they’re about mystification.

[i] Box, S., & Platts, K. from 2005 in Business Process Management Journal: “Establishing and maintaining project alignment”, Vol. 11 Issue: 4, pp.370-387.

Improving team effectiveness

I now run a process called Mirror Mirror. It improves team effectiveness through behavioural and cognitive alignment.  In a nutshell, we capture how people in teams perceive the behaviours and their shared context, then combine the data – using bespoke software – to expose the alignment gaps.

We collaborate with the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands to establish what knowledge exists in the areas of context profiling and team alignment and continually enhance our processes.

The research shows that teams (bringing together people with different experiences and values) are more effective than are individuals. However, effective collaboration is not merely a case of putting people with relevant knowledge together. Team members face the challenge of integrating their different perspectives and developing shared cognition (a shared understanding) of the problem at hand.

This is driven by interpersonal and socio-cognitive processes and practices (behaviours) in four categories:

  1. Psychological safety:  A shared belief that the interpersonal risk taking will not carry negative consequences
  2. Team cohesion: Shared commitment to achieve shared goals
  3. Group potency: The collective belief of team members that the group can be effective (confidence)
  4. Interdependence: On two levels: a) reliability of interconnections between tasks; b) personal benefits and costs of team members depend on goal achievement.

To summarise, learning behaviours in teams lead to better cognitive alignment – and both, to a large extent, determine team effectiveness.

Having run Mirror Mirror with a variety of organizations now, it seems obvious that a structured way to bring teams to a shared view of ‘what is’, along with a culture that promotes the continuation of that, will make a big difference to how effective that team will be. And it’s true.

It is, as one client put it, ‘reverse communications’.  When you ask people what they think and feel, people feel included. By listening and involving their views in discussions, people feel more ownership. And by exposing the gaps in thinking – to be clear this doesn’t mean agreement, it means compatibility – you know what information or discussion is needed.

We work with an ecosystem of hand-picked delivery partners on programmes large and small in any location. To find out more about “Clearing The Fog”, please click on

About the author

Lindsay U is founder of the Mirror Mirror team alignment process.  She started her career managing small businesses before spending 15 years in employee communication leadership positions with multinational organisations in the energy, IT, and telecommunications industries.