We’ve known for a while that an increase in remote work was coming, and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Many workers are eager to return to offices (some have already), and many more want to continue working from home for the foreseeable future. Gallup found that 2/3 of the people who have been working remotely due to the pandemic would like to continue doing so.
For over a decade, our consultants have worked with client CEOs to help them exceed industry standards and build great companies. Having seen thousands of business plans and helped hundreds of CEOs around the world, some very clear patterns emerge in our work. We’ve distilled the most important factors to building a great company of aligned teams who execute flawlessly into a simple system. I say “simple,” because the concepts are easy to understand; however, they can be challenging to implement—just as the concept of exercise and balanced diet are easy to understand but be difficult to achieve.
As I was scrolling through my social media feeds this week, I noticed a trend that more tech companies are announcing a permanent move to hybrid or even a “remote-first” approach for the indefinite future. As companies look to 2021 and make budgeting and resourcing decisions, it’s not a mystery why many are choosing to reduce investment in physical spaces and double down on the remote work infrastructure if their business model allows it. That means many of your meetings will be moving online to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Skype or any of the video conferencing applications available.
As a training and on-boarding expert at Rhythm Systems, I know a lot about KPIs. Recently, I’ve also learned a lot about OKRs. Many of my newer clients have come to us for a systematic way to implement their OKRs. As I help these clients map their goals into our software, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether the KPIs I know and love have a place in this world of Objectives and Key Results. I’ve come to the conclusion that while KPIs and OKRs are different, there’s a clear benefit to having both. They are both instrumental in goal setting and performance management.
The feedback surveys are still rolling in, but I can say without a doubt that our first virtual conference was a success! Our amazing clients (and our generous CEO who matched contributions) raised enough money for Samaritan’s Feet to provide shoes and COVID kits for 1,200 children. We heard inspiring keynotes and gained insights from client speakers sharing stories on everything from the future of the physical office to the challenges of innovating during a crisis. We had some fun, and we learned a ton—and not just from the content.
For many, our current environment is more distracting than any other time in our work lives. With a pandemic raging, a U.S. election looming, and economic uncertainty lurking, there are lots of competing priorities for your employees’ time and attention. If your employees are working remotely, they may be working in uncomfortable spaces without the right equipment, navigating remote learning challenges with children, or figuring out shared schedules with partners or roommates. Even if your team is back in the office, they are likely distracted by new protocols for social distancing and mask wearing, worrying about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones, concerned about being furloughed or a myriad of other distractions.
If you are like many of our clients, you may be considering adjusting travel plans for your team in the midst of the concern surrounding COVID-19. This will obviously have a big impact on most businesses, which makes it more important than ever to prioritize your team’s quarterly planning meeting. You’ll need to spend time thinking about the impacts to your team and your business, so even if you are canceling travel, don’t cancel your session! This is likely to be the most important virtual strategy session in the history of your company - even if you can't meet face to face. You need to be agile to respond to the ever-changing market conditions while creating your 3-5 year strategic plans.
Businesses looking to implement goal setting best practices are often drowning in a sea of acronyms that can be hard to navigate. What’s better - MBOs or OKRs? Where do KPIs fit in? Should I have SMART goals or stretch goals or something else? There are lots of tools and frameworks and different acronyms out there, but there are some key elements of effective goal-setting that underlie all of the most effective business and performance management goals.
First, let’s clarify the terminology a little bit. I’ll give a brief explanation of what MBOs, OKRs, and KPIs are and what the pros and cons may be for each.
At Rhythm Systems, we specialize in helping middle market companies achieve their dreams and goals. We believe that we can make a big impact on the world by helping our clients be successful in bringing their vision to life. We do this by using our methodology, experts and tools to help clients break through barriers and remove obstacles to their success.
In order to understand those obstacles better, we collected insights from over 900 CEOs about their biggest business challenges. We wanted to know what was keeping you up at night, and we found the results fascinating.
Top 10 Business Challenges Facing Today's CEOs:
By far, the most common business challenge reported is related to growth. CEOs worry about managing growth and growing predictably.
Next, CEOs are concerned about hiring, employee engagement, accountability, leadership and performance management.
Maintaining profitability and healthy cash flow is another very common theme from our middle market CEOs.
Sales and Marketing
Consistently delivering sales and marketing results came up frequently as a top challenge. How do you get the team to work cross-functionally?
Successfully executing new strategies, projects, and plans. How do you organize and lead the change initiatives across the company?
CEOs also report that aligning business units and people is a significant struggle. Getting on the same page is hard and staying on the same page in the fast paced business world is even harder. You need a system to keep the team aligned.
Developing the right strategic plan for future growth and effectively facilitating an effective planning meeting were among the top concerns.
CEOs additionally reported internal communication and collaboration as significant business challenges. This is even more challenging during the times of remote work, where communication and alignment also suffer if you don't have an operating system for your business.
Focusing on doing the right things to achieve clearly defined results. Priorities often change with changing business conditions, but management doesn't get their teams focused on the priorities for today, causing lots of re-work.
Developing and executing the right product, customer and growth strategies is also a top of mind as a challenge for CEOs. Many find extreme benefits in hiring a strategic planning facilitator for their expertise in getting an actionable strategy for the company and plans how to get there.
Over the last few months, my husband and I have been re-watching AMC’s Mad Men, a show we started a long time ago and never finished in the flood of other enticing streaming content and demands of life with two small kids. While there is plenty of workplace behavior on this show that I by no means endorse, every once in a while, Don Draper drops in with a quote that makes me think. For example, in one episode, he says to his apprentice, Peggy, who’s struggling to come up with an idea for a client, “Just think about it deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will…jump up in your face.”
It got me thinking about how critical it is to prepare well for strategic planning, especially as most of our clients are in the midst of Q4 and Annual Planning. You can’t just show up in the meeting and hope inspiration will strike, and you’ll create the perfect strategy for navigating this challenging environment filled with uncertainty. You need to put the time in to really think, prepare well and clear your head in advance. Maybe then, with the right preparation and when you least expect it, inspiration will strike.