As an executive, your job includes shaping and sharing the vision, mission, and goals for your company. These ideas are fractal, and apply equally well to the global organization down to the smallest department. Every part of the organization can then create their own identities that reflect the overall company goals directly. With a true shared vision, you get traceability from the highest levels down to the day-to-day work.
- Vision and mission statements get lip service, but don’t affect daily decision making or work.
- Time and effort wasted on items that don’t tie to strategic goals
- Product ideas drift away from the vision and the original value proposition gets lost
- Teams don’t know the corporate vision and mission or how their work supports them
- Teams feel their leaders are clueless and out of touch.
Effective companies need a consumable communication channel from leadership to the rest of the company. This practice provides that channel in an actionable format.
- The entire organization now understands the organization’s purpose and goals
- Helps the entire organization be effective and efficient by providing alignment and transparency
- All work is traced up to these goals. Any “orphan work” is eliminated
- Helps determine what needs to be done, and just as important, what not to do
- Progress is tracked and measured within the context of the goals VisualizeProgress
- Conflicting projects and initiatives that are spawned by different understandings of the company’s vision get eliminated
- Enables delegation of decision making and prioritization of work
✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental
Steps to first adopt this practice:
- Start with a Vision Workshop. Include top management and identify the overarching, multi-year goals for your company. What are the two to five things the company intends to accomplish? Keep it short, concrete and actionable. Avoid jargon and empty words.
- Communicate your goals to the development teams and the rest of the organization. Have a company-wide, or at least division-wide workshops.
- Post the goals in a highly visible area.
- Break down the goals and/or categorize all work from goals (multi-year) to environments (larger organizational units and associated products) to ecosystems (product releases) and user capabilities (Timeboxes).
- Ask any development team member to explain how their current work supports a high-level goal (it might support it directly or indirectly).
- Ask members of the executive and management teams as well.
- Were your goals well understood?
- If not, adjust your message to better convey the goals to that audience.
Clearly communicating your vision forms the foundation of all future development. It’s important to get this part right. Continue the Trial and Evaluate Feedback steps until you’re satisfied the message has gotten through.
What Does it Look like?
As an executive focused on maximizing results for your organization, one of the most critical aspects of your job is first to ensure your organization has a firm, clear grasp of its goals and vision. Second, you must connect and closely align all team’s goals with those of the organization.
This is not an easy thing to do but it is essential for long term success. In order for an individual to subordinate their personal goals and adopt and truly buy into the companies goals, a strong sense of belonging and identity need to be established, as well as a picture of how the work each individual or team does impacts the company’s success. This requires the vision to be fractal, and apply equally well to the global organization and down to the smallest department. Every part of the organization can then create their own identities that reflect the overall company goals directly. With a true shared vision, you get traceability from the highest levels down to the day-to-day work.
Imagine interviewing with a company that says “Our goal is to win the race to the bottom by making shoddy products, chiseling the customers and working our employees until they drop!” Would you?
Vision/Mission statements provide a direction for the company to move. These ideals are great, but lack “How we do this?” It’s the executive’s job to make sure their reports understand the statements, and can break the statements into actions for them to work on. In turn, it’s that level’s responsibility to ensure the next level understands the actions needed to support the higher level goals. This creates a fractal structure where each set of goals supports the goals above it, and includes the goals of the next level down.
Along the way, other visions such as product visions will appear supporting the higher goals and providing a guiding frame for creative work. Additionally the time horizon shifts from years, to quarters, maybe months, and for teams not using continuous flow a Timebox.
For example break down the work this way.
Display these goals prominently where the teams can see them.
To understand how well the vision statement gets shared, ask team members to share the vision statement in their words and how it relates to their work.
You’re doing it wrong if…
- Work isn’t aligned with the goals
- People don’t know the higher level goals
- People are confused and misinterpret the high levels goals
- Teams are engaged in “orphan work” that can’t be traced to the goals
- High level goals are forgotten or ignored… in other words, irrelevant.
How to get to the next level:
- Ask team members how their work fits into the higher goals
- Ask customers/stakeholders/product developers how the features they’re asking for fit into the high level goals
- Connect teams so they see how their deliveries make a difference and align with the company’s overall vision
- Make your goals simpler and more digestible
- Ensure every team member sees the goals every day
- Create Safety so team members will push back on work they don’t see as a part of a high level goal
- Review / refine the high level goals quarterly
Exercises to Get Better
- Take a day or two with your executive team and create your high level categories based on existing work. Then compare these buckets of effort against your existing perceived high level goals.
- Ask team members to explain a goal to you. If they can’t, rewrite the goal.
- Write goals for other companies.
How to Teach This Practice
The best way to learn this practice is to block off time and make the attempt. We often use a workshop environment to guide executives through the process. This “executive vision workshop” requires very little guidance once started. Having an external facilitator ensures the event stays on track, but the leaders usually already know the goals. They just need a bit of help sharing them.
How To Fail Spectacularly
- Content-free, un-actionable vision: “We’re a customer-centric organization focused on
actualizing best-of-breed cross-platform enterprise face time ideation.”
- 17 goals for a dozen team members
- A 10 year plan with excruciating detail
- One overly broad, nondescript goal: “Better quality” or “Faster delivery”
- Assume the existing communication channels are sufficient and blame clueless team members for not understanding how you shared your goals
- Do a great job creating well-articulated goals that are never seen again
More wonderful examples of really bad vision statements can be found online, see for example: laughing-buddha.net/toys/mission.
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