It's easy for an organization's workforce to fall out of alignment with its business strategy. A little growth here, a little restructuring there, and before you know it, a team can be completely jumbled.

It happens to the best of organizations. The demands and pace of business force you to act quickly, and when you finally have the opportunity to reevaluate your team, a few things like size, structure, purpose, skills, and resources can be out of kilter. 

If not dealt with quickly, misalignment can lead to operational inefficiencies, a lack of direction and ownership, and missed opportunities to advance the company's mission.  

Enter workforce planning. Workforce planning is the continual process of aligning an organization's workforce to the needs of the business -- now and in the future. Successful workforce planning helps companies create leaner, more agile teams, put the right people in the right places, and invest in the right systems to grow them. All in all, it's a vital component to any high-performing culture. 

Here are four questions that can help you get started. 

1. Where are you today? 

Make an honest assessment of your team's current state. Get a clear understanding of what work is being done, how it is being done, why it's happening, and who is doing it. Analyzing its structure can help you determine if there are any areas in need of additional resources, improvements, or investments. 

In my experience, this process uncovers that there are some employees who are absolutely slammed, and others who are begging for more work. That there are managers being bogged down by repetitive tasks with no bandwidth for strategic initiatives, while there are systems that aren't being leveraged to automate. Vital tasks that are going undone, and employees with strengths and experience in those areas who were never given a chance to contribute. 

A "current state" will help you immediately diagnose operational inefficiencies and establish a baseline that can be evaluated to determine your team's position relative to future business needs.   

2. Where do you want to be in the future? 

Base on the company's goals and the trajectory of the business, how does your team stack up? To determine where you stand, take a look at current and forecasted projects, the associated compliance and tactical work, and where there are opportunities for improvement. 

Use the foundation that you've built to determine your position relative to the organization's prospective needs. 

Also, consider the needs of your own department. For example, promotions, development, and attrition. While you're supporting the goals of the business, you also need to be cognizant of the goals of your people. They'll be looking for progression and growth opportunities. 

3. What are the gaps preventing you from getting there? 

Considering your team's structure, abilities, and technology, what is standing in the way of your success? There will always be gaps.

Based on the desired state, you may find that there's additional infrastructure needed to support new work. Or, that there is a skills gap based on the unfamiliar nature of new projects. 

Going through this exercise of analyzing your position against current and future business needs (on a consistent basis) will ensure you quickly identify roadblocks and mitigate them before it's too late. 

4. How can you bridge the gaps? 

Lastly, put an action plan into place. 

Through some of my experience, workforce planning provided the business case for an investment in new technology, the creation of new positions, and the redeployment of employees against different initiatives. 

Every time, tweaks and adjustments were made to ensure our teams were well positioned to meet the needs of the business, their department goals, and the career aspirations of their people. 

Although there are many formal processes for workforce planning, asking yourself these four questions on a consistent basis will help you and your team stay in alignment with your organization's trajectory.