On the Same Page

A few weeks ago, I was in Denver to host a group of CEOs from around the world, after which a couple of colleagues and I went for dinner in a highly recommended restaurant. We had spectacular meal, with amazing service that was so good we were already talking about going back again. And then, just as we were about to leave, a not-so-funny thing happened. One of my colleagues, who was from a country where people don’t tip, graciously offered to buy dinner, and as he signed off on the bill, made a ‘mistake’ on the total.

The waiter threw the temper tantrum of a three-year old who’d been denied his favorite toy because he didn’t think the tip was good enough. When my colleague realized what he had done, he offered to fix his mistake, but the waiter continued with a belligerent lecture on tipping in the US – to the point where I asked him to stop and chill out, and to give us a chance to fix it. The waiter continued his rant – clearly a better actor playing a great waiter than he was a great waiter!

Evidently, he had unresolved issues to work on. (Read more about how this can diminish your abilities in Chapter 6 of my book, Deal with Your Emotional Junk.)

On the way out, as I let the manager know about our experience, the waiter continued to defend his position. And, although the manager agreed his staff’s behaviour wasn’t acceptable, he did nothing about it.

Goes to show you that while it’s great to have alignment in your organization about how to handle situations, there are critical moments that can go very wrong, destroying your good intentions – all your systems and protocols – in a matter of moments. Unless you step up to make it right.

Despite the fantastic meal, because of this waiter’s tantrum and the manager’s response, we knew we wouldn’t be back, nor would we recommend the restaurant to anyone else.

Get the Whole Company on the Same Page

We hear people say ‘we need to get on the same page’ all the time. It means they need alignment, common focus and goals.

Most companies we go into aspire to be on the same page, but they’re often not because they haven’t defined what the culture looks like, so people just behave in a way they think is right. There’s no definition of right, right, wrong and expected, so you can’t blame them for that.

I’ll talk about cultural alignment in an upcoming blog. For now, let’s talk about getting everyone on the same page strategically.

Just One Page

With almost every client around the world, we use the same basic tool to first get leadership of the company aligned around what matters most.

For that, we use the one-page strategic plan: a single A3 page (11 x 17) with the whole plan for the company from forever to 10- to 25-year goals, to 3- to 5-year year goals, to annual and quarterly goals. You can learn more about this incredibly straightforward tool in Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0) – on which I was a key contributor. It’s what people need to be clear on who the company is, where the company is heading and what they have to do to get there.

It sounds basic but the people in most organizations don’t accomplish as much as they’d like to – or could – because there’s not enough clarity.

In the world of professional sports, there’s a score we look at, game by game, and then the final series at the end of the session. There’s so much clarity and measurement of what great looks like, it’s easy to know what matters. But, in business, there are so many variables that the clarity is lost the further down you go in the organization.

So, here’s how we do it:

  • First, we start with an annual planning session, with in-advance research to understand the company’s existing plan, performance and the customer segment where they make and lose the most money
  • Second, we survey or interview the executive team, and sometimes others further down in the company, to understand the issues and opportunities
  • Third, we facilitate a two- to three-day planning session with the executive team and sometimes key leaders.

Our goal is to get that one page clarified: the forever, to 25 to 10 years, to 3 to 5 years and annual goals. It’s a lot of work to get that one page clarified, and to get people on the same page – and it gets much easier in subsequent years.

Before we leave the room, we also have clear goals for the next quarter. Otherwise, everyone ‘crams for the exam’ and panics to get their goals done, at the end of the year. But if we ‘cram for the exam’ every quarter, we’re four times more likely to make the progress because we don’t forget and have the accountability to deliver.

And then we put the mechanisms in place to make sure the company builds a rhythm of achievement. We touch base with the executive team every quarter for 30 to 45 minutes to review the goals, where we are at, and where we are stuck. Then we have a conversation with the CEO to see what’s working, what’s not, and how to move ahead.

At the end of the quarter, we reset the process and spend two days to review financials, KPIs and goals. We continue to develop and evolve the strategic plan and then reset the goals for the following quarter, discussing what we’ll deliver in 90 days. This starts at the company level and then we break it down to mini-goals for each executive.

The key is to get clear on the long, short, and medium term goals. Then we aim to stay in a constant rhythm to reconnect and realign. The plan is to reset goals every 90 days, review them monthly and weekly.

Month after month, quarter after quarter, the organization gets clearer and achieves more than in the past. After 18 months, most of the legacy issues get cleared – then we can focus on solid growth.

At the root, it’s the discipline of a monthly check-in and quarterly reset of goals. Then these work toward the annual objective, and so on towards the 25-year plan.

It’s important for the executives and leaders to have the pattern of clarifying and achieving their goals. Then we can start to cascade the goals down to the rest of the company in the second year.

The Challenge

  • Get your leadership team clear on the top three to five things to achieve this quarter and this year.
  • Put disciplines in place to make sure you achieve what you have set out to do. These include weekly reminders, monthly reviews and accountability, and resetting of goals.

Do you need assistance with your annual or quarterly plan? Our internal team of coaches – and others we know, around the world – are available to help, virtually or in person.