Strategic Alignment and Accountability

We often receive calls from CEOs or senior leaders asking us to help improve either the strategic alignment or the accountability in their growing company. And when we dig into the symptoms and root causes we often find some very simple things have slipped as the the company has grown.

In many cases, we find a lack of a clear vision of the company they’re trying to build. It’s not that those visions don’t exist in the minds of the CEO, senior leaders and team members, it’s that there are 4 or 42 or 4200 different versions. Sometimes, long-term visions have been created, or the CEO may have made a presentation on them two or three years ago; but there’s no single, undeniable vision (that most people know and can articulate) for people to focus on and believe in.

Getting in Sync with the Vision

In reality, it’s very hard to get a group of 42 or 420 or 4200 people in sync – that’s why it is so rare to find in companies.  So, over the first year or two with clients, we use time-tested tools – discovered and developed over 25 years – to boil down their vision into something compelling and tangible enough for people to sink their teeth into: like a strong and simple billboard message that everyone walks by, as they enter their office every day, virtually or physically, to be reminded of know who they are and the mission they’re driven to fulfill.

It takes hours of thinking and debating time to create these compelling (and relevant) visions – time that’s challenging to find in fast-growing companies, as everyone tries to keep up with the growth and doing things like hiring desperately needed new team members, to take very good care of the new or existing customers who pay the bills.

But a clear vision makes sure there is strategic alignment with everyone in the company. Every person is aligned and pointed in the same direction – their own true North – plus or minus a few degrees. That clarity and common purpose gives everyone more strength and peace of mind.

Choosing a Strategy To 2X

Once clear on the vision, the strategy of how you are going to get there becomes critical for focus and accountability. We look at plans for 3 to 5 years in the future and call this 2X-ing the Business: the drive to make the business double the size, and at least double the strength and profitability.

In this process, we boil down all the different, potential investments of resources (capital and human) to decide on the top 3 to 5 that will help to successfully get to the next big milestones.

This sounds simple but requires hours of valuable debate and strategic discussions, testing and iterating ideas, to tease out what really works and what doesn’t.

Because everyone believes their personal or department projects are very important (which, from their perspective we can understand) this is where the organization decides on the best investments of human capital and financial resources, to make the greatest improvement in the company.

Alignment kicks in when you all complete the needed debates and agree on the growth strategy.

Accountability kicks in when one executive on the team owns each of the major strategic investments. During annual and quarterly meetings, the owners of those projects give updates on the progress made, and how you’re getting closer – and/or smarter about getting closer – to those objectives.

Break It Down Every 90 days

Focus & urgency come alive when those 3- to 5-year goals convert into annual and quarterly deliverables.

This structure helps people to succeed because they are clear on what must be delivered and, every 3 months, report back on what they achieved, what they learned and what they/we can do better in the next quarter.

It’s no different than cramming for an exam in high school or university. When you only have an annual plan, people cram for the exam once a year – they’re more likely to be successful when they have to pass the test four times a year.

This quarterly reflection creates a real opportunity iterate – to tweak plans with better options or alternatives, based on what we’ve learned in the last quarter.

So, when you have clear, 90-day deliverables, reported on every quarter, a lot more progress is made – and all the questions about accountability and alignment start to fade away because you’ve agreed on what is most important and have been transparent about how you deliver on your commitments.

Synchronizing the Real Impact

We also ask leaders of each investment, project or goal to estimate the impact on the bottom line, to train people to think of their project in commercial and ROI terms. It can be hard to do – and we don’t care if they get the number right – but want them to be able to debate different possibilities, based on the true economic impact.

We all have ideas that we are passionate about and believe will really impact the business – and sometimes we are right!  The goal is to get back to facts and to prove out the validity and potential impact of an idea before you invest heavily in a project that could improve profitability by $5000, when there’s an alternative that could impact the bottom line by $500,000 or $5,000,000.

Using our heads and looking at the numbers in the game of business helps us to make smarter decisions.

The Challenge

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the engagement, strategic alignment, and accountability of your team?
  • What do you think would improve that engagement, strategic alignment and accountability by 10 or 20%?

If you need help to enhance your company’s performance, speak with one of our team of qualified coaches to learn how we can help.