At the beginning regular conversations and ad-hoc discussions shape the future vision. Everyone has absolute clarity, they know what the future will look like, feel like and sound like.
The team got down to the hard work of translating the vision into processes, standards and values. And above all, meeting customer needs and outshining the competition.
Then the organisation grows, or moves into becoming sustainable rather than a start-up and change happens. Committed people become burnt out, or disengaged. They lose their mojo.
The Founder isn’t quite so hands on. There’s a need for more structure to enable growth. Work becomes ‘business as usual’, there seems to be confusion about where priorities lie and accountability is weak.
Here are 5 ways you can keep the team laser focused and on track:
1. Do they understand ‘why’ they do what they do?
Remember those constant conversations, those late nights working it all out, the excitement of feeling you were crafting something unique?
The vision becomes diluted as time passes.
When was the last time the existing team was involved in exploring and understanding the future vision?
Have they imagined what it looks like, feels like and sounds like?
Change may mean your vision or the means to get there becomes foggy.
Unless everyone fully understands and can articulate the ‘why’ of your organisation, they won’t really feel part of the overall picture.
They will just do their job, rather than consider how their role contributes to the purpose of the company.
2. Do they have crystal clear clarity on what needs to be delivered and by when?
Does the team understand what’s really important in terms of the organisational aims and objectives and how this filters into their specific objectives?
Good objectives are not a list of initiatives and things that need to get done.
They are a clear description of what is to be achieved which will enable the strategy to be delivered.
Initiatives enable the achievement of objectives.
John Doerrs book, Measure What Matters provides some great examples of strategically led objective setting. It’s adopted by the likes of Google and they call them OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results).
Objectives should be transparent and shared across roles and departments, so there are no conflicts of interest, which drive silo thinking and working.
3. Can they take small steps toward achieving their objectives every day?
Setting objectives is often the reserve of the annual appraisal, which is quickly becoming as unfashionable as it is useless.
In fact things often change so quickly that within a few months the objectives set at the annual appraisal are out of date or irrelevant.
Agree a timescale that enables individuals to keep their objectives in mind and take small steps toward them each day. Scope out broader long-term objectives and then break down into monthly, or quarterly objectives to be achieved sooner.
Review progress frequently – ideally monthly or quarterly. Use the review to check whether the objectives are still relevant:
- Has information emerged that wasn’t available earlier?
- Has something been learned which sheds new light on what is needed?
- Has a change happened within the company, economy, or customer needs?
Redefine the objectives as information emerges, this means actions remain agile and the real priorities are addressed.
It also means people feel motivated, because they review and evidence progress.
4. Do they know what standard is expected?
Standards are what is expected of individuals in their day to day tasks. Whether you need to discuss this may depend upon the level of experience of the person being managed, it may also be necessary where a new role, or work task is added.
A standard is a very specific expected outcome and can be described in terms of quantity and quality. “Produce X number of widgets, within Y number of minutes, which are all perfectly round and smooth”. “Welcome all customers with a genuine smile as soon as they enter the restaurant and show them to their table.” “Produce this report in the X format, by Y time every Tuesday.”
5. Do they have weekly support and check-ins?
This might seem excessive, but this isn’t about checking-up, or micro-managing.
It’s about providing a sounding board, being a coach and mentor, rather than a decision maker and director.
It means you support your team to solve issues, before they become issues. You are aware of team conflicts and challenges, coaching individuals to find the resources to handle, rather than having to step in to solve it for them.
Frequent check-ins and support will develop your teams resilience, focus and motivation.
Communication ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ your people
During times of change or growth, communication is seen as essential – but it’s often done ‘to’ people, rather than ‘with’.
By doing the 5 things suggested and consistently discussing strategy, aims and vision. Constantly revisiting how this translates to objectives, standards and things to do, you will have a team who deeply understand what is needed. They will be more capable of accountability and decision making, freeing you to focus upon evolving your organisation further.
Lyn has over 20 years of developing leaders and facilitating conversations to help teams to become clearer on what strategy means to them day to day. To discuss how she can support you and your organisation contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07950 914328.