If you have ever downloaded any tools or other resources on our site, you know that we usually ask you about your Biggest Business Challenge in our forms. In response to your feedback, we are featuring a blog series on your biggest business challenges! This post is a response to the challenge “aligning senior team around clear goals."
How much can your leadership team really take on this quarter and accomplish well?
We have all heard the saying, “Less is More.” I try to exercise this concept in my personal life when it comes to toys, although my wife would tell you I am more successful some years than others. I do like the acid test of “will it make my family’s or my life better” when contemplating a new purchase.
When it comes to setting priorities for your leadership team, this saying could not be more relevant: “Will the priorities help you grow the company profitably and help you reach your goals?” We advise clients to set 3-5 Annual Key Initiatives and 3-5 Quarterly Priorities for the leadership team and the corresponding groups needed to achieve organizational alignment. If you choose more than 5 leadership goals, the executive team has too many! You need to narrow it down so that the leadership team can focus on the most important goals and let the team stay aligned from leadership to team to the front line for the time period. I always say you can have six and when you finish the fifth, you can work on it - we don't ever get to it.
It is very common when we begin working with a new client that they are convinced they can take on more than this. Sometimes the team is larger; sometimes they just feel they are a hard working high performance team that gets a lot of work done each quarter. This is all very true, I am sure. But one pattern I see very often is within 12-24 months of working with them and measuring outcomes with very clear success criteria, the number always goes down. I have even seen extremes where the team takes on one priority for the quarter so that they really nail it. While I think this may be the extreme, it helps make the point. Getting the leadership team focused on a few goals is the foundation of organizational alignment.
Leadership Team Alignment Around Clear Goals to Succeed
If it is an annual planning session, you need to review our BHAG and your 3-5 year Winning Moves and Key Thrusts. This will set the direction of where you need to go.
Next, you need to develop a clear theme or main thing for the year. This should be the most important thing in front of you that unifies your efforts. Once you know what the year is about and the main focus, you can begin to develop clear annual key initiatives that align and support it. Your goal is to determine 3-5 very distinct Key Initiatives with clear outcome based Red-Yellow-Green success criteria so that the team is clear about what success looks like. This is all about setting desired outcomes that are clear to both the senior leadership, management and the employee.
If you are planning for the quarter, it is still best if you can review the long-term strategy, if time is available and you allow the recommended two days for your session. If you can only allocate one day, then it is necessary to at least review the Key Initiatives for the year and the progress to date and determine what the main focus needs to be this quarter to continue making progress on your annual goals. Following the same pattern as above, once you know the most important thing or theme for the quarter, you can develop the top 3-5 priorities to support it. Sometimes your main thing is your number one priority for the quarter. The key is to discuss and debate, as much as you need, so that everyone on the team is bought in and aligned before you agree. A “minor major” is to also spend time discussing and agreeing on the success criteria so that everyone is aligned around what the outcome should be at the end of the quarter. This will help you have effective weekly meetings because individuals can status accurately and the team has clarity on how the initiatives are progressing.
So the key is to look ahead at what your long-term goals are, establish a clear theme or main thing for the period ahead, and then develop clear outcome based priorities to support it. Doing this while the team is together in the planning session will get the team aligned around the right things and set the stage for a successful quarter. I hope this helps, and please let me know your thoughts.
Plan well, Alan
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