Hitting the Ceiling of Complexity
Strong performance habits are a game-changer. Allow me to share a case study from one of our clients: They were private equity-funded and had clear growth goals and financial targets that the CEO and executive team had committed to. They were doing well, they were excited, and they were hitting their numbers! And then, suddenly, they started running into challenges.
These challenges happen when a company grows past a certain point–and in our client’s case, it was $50 million. They started to miss deadlines, leading to customer disappointment. This problem originated from missed hand-offs between departments. They had unintentionally begun working in silos. When one department finishes its part of a project and hands it off to the next department, the next department won’t be ready for it. Everyone was working harder, but somehow, there was always more work! Growth began to slow down as life grew more and more complicated. I call this “Hitting the ceiling of complexity.”
I have observed this pattern in hundreds of companies that I have visited and interviewed. When they hit the ceiling of complexity, it means that their problems compounded when they lost focus (picked up more priorities), became misaligned (missed handoffs and repeatedly dropped the ball), and lost accountability (did not know who was supposed to deliver what by when). This loss of focus, alignment, and accountability is very subtle, and it happens slowly at first–but when the effects become compounded over time, it feels like our ability to achieve our goals has vanished overnight!
Watch the webinar format of this blog below:
The Three Challenges
Our client faced three challenges common to companies of this growth stage:
- They had too many priorities. Steve Jobs famously said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” If you have too many priorities competing with one another, it will be extremely difficult to focus.
- Their teams were not planning cross-functionally. Everyone planned in a silo with their own department. This created a lack of horizontal alignment because they didn’t know how their work impacted one another. I always ask: “Do you know how your work is affecting other people, other teams, and other departments?” If the answer is no, check your alignment. Nowadays, most projects are really enterprise work involving multiple departments and teams, and the hand-offs have to be smooth to ensure on-time delivery.
- They became too busy and started disconnecting on a weekly basis. They claimed they simply didn’t have time to meet anymore. But by not meeting up and holding themselves and each other accountable to their goals, they started to slip. They were not holding themselves accountable for achieving the plan for the entire journey of the plan.
The Impact of Peak Performance
Through coaching, our client was able to change their habits and get more focused, aligned, and accountable to achieve their commitments. As they did this, they experienced three key changes:
- They went from having too many priorities to focusing on just a few. During their planning sessions, their executive team committed to both “yes” and “no”! Remember: Prioritization is not about “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight….” It is really about “One, two, three, four, maybe five, and then no, no, no, no, no!” “Yes” is important, but “no” is even more important.
- They went from working in silos to working in alignment by using a regular planning rhythm. Imagine everyone in a company at the start line of a race. When the gun goes off, the executive team takes off because they know the plan–but everyone else is confused. Team plans should be built together to build alignment.
- They went from being surprised by deadlines to being accountable to weekly goals. They learned how to keep their yearly and quarterly goals top-of-mind so that they could work toward achieving them week over week. If something wasn’t going right part-way through the quarter, they made adjustments so that they could be accountable to getting the work done.
Rhythm’s Peak Performance Program
If you could get your people focused, aligned, and accountable to execute your strategy, what difference would it make for you?
Peak Performance is all about change management and driving the right habits. As you develop and hone your performance habits, you learn how to say “no” during planning, plan cross-functionally to eliminate silos, and stay connected by holding the right conversations. This is how you achieve better focus, alignment, and accountability so that you can break through the ceiling of complexity!
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