As the dust settles on the Annual Planning season, many CEOs now face the challenge of how to achieve and maintain alignment to the company goals across the organization for the entire year. For everyone on your executive team, this job should never end. And, as CEO, you are the driver, the one person who can have the single greatest impact on your team’s focus and alignment throughout the year.
Here are some patterns I’ve seen from CEOs who do this really well.
- Share the Story. In order for employees to get excited about company goals, they must understand why the goals are what they are. As CEO, it’s your job to tell the story. People remember stories, not numbers or out-of-context phrases. If your theme for the year is around customer retention, for example, tell a customer story that really hits home. It has to be memorable and give great context as to why the goal is important.
- Follow a Process. To achieve alignment of goals across the organization, there has to be a planning process that every department uses. It needs to be systematic, routine and drive the proper flow of information. For example, the exec team should plan first. Then, the company plan should be communicated to departments. Departments plan next. Finally, all plans should be shared across departments to work out dependencies and conflicting priorities. Plans should also be shared across the company so any priorities that are not aligned to the company plan can be challenged. The Plan Rhythm should happen the same way, for every team, every quarter.
- Go for Extreme Clarity. No plan is complete without clear expectations. For every priority at every level, there should be precise Red Yellow Green success criteria. For example, if your goal is to “Implement the New ERP System,” everyone should be aligned around what is going to be considered success and failure of that goal. It should be crystal clear. In this example, green might be: “All weekly reports are being pulled from the new ERP by end of quarter,” which is much more specific than “System implemented.”
- Connect with Strategy. The most happy and productive employees understand how their daily work drives the company’s long-term strategy. This is true for everyone in the organization, no matter how small their role. As CEO, you should constantly share the long-term vision and paint a picture for your employees of where the company is going. If your Core Purpose is to “Positively impact the life of every student and set them on a path for life success,” the person answering your front-line phone should convey that with every interaction. If your Winning Move is to “Launch in a new international market,” your marketing team will understand why localized translations are so important.
- Drive Weekly Accountability. Team alignment doesn’t end once you have your quarterly plan. An effective Weekly Meeting Rhythm is the glue that keeps everyone aligned as they execute throughout the quarter. Similar to the planning process, there should be a routine, systematic approach to having effective weekly meetings across the organization. For example, the departments might all have their weekly meetings on Monday morning, and the executive team might meet on Monday afternoon. This allows for the flow of information to come up to the exec team. Any issues around stuck priorities, priorities that are competing for shared resources, or priorities that need to be stopped altogether, will come up for discussion with the exec team. This provides the opportunity to have those discussions cross-functionally.
- Be Relentless. Really, be relentless. Be that person who never shuts up about the company’s strategy & execution plans. Your team should know your Theme and Priorities because you constantly talk about them. It’s up to you to keep it front and center of every meeting and discussion. For some high-growth companies, you might hire 50 new people this quarter. Remember, they’ve never heard it before. You have to constantly evangelize and be an advocate for your strategic plan. As CEO, it should be your primary function.
Want more information on organizational alignment? Check out these additional resources:
Take Our Team Accountability Assessment to see how your team stacks up.
Learn more about accountable leaders and teams.
Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images