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How can a growing startup maintain company alignment? Company alignment — ensuring everyone is working toward the same objectives — is a challenge for the best companies out there, not to mention a startup in the midst of growth.
When companies become misaligned, departments may be working toward different goals — and in some cases, these goals may even be at odds. The result? A lack of collaboration and even conflict. In some cases, it can be fatal.
The problem is that company alignment can be difficult to execute. Here are some actionable ways to keep your startup aligned.
1. Make your mission the foundation of your company.
The foundation of company alignment is having a shared mission or purpose. Before you can think about aligning your team along revenue targets, you need to unite them around a more powerful vision first: your mission. More specifically, what are you trying to do for your customers? Google’s mission statement, for instance, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” (Full disclosure: My company is an official partner of Reserve with Google.)
The purpose of a mission? It provides your team with a broader perspective about what they’re doing and, most importantly, why. This transcends revenue targets. The second component is then aligning your mission with specific revenue targets, growth goals and other objectives (more on this to come). The idea is that your targets become tied to something powerful: something your team can connect with.
2. Clearly define your goals/objectives at the top level.
This may seem like an obvious step, but it bears repeating. Your startup has goals and priorities, but it’s important that they’re as clear as possible. You also need to figure out what’s most important at this very moment. There will always be other things you could be devoting attention to, but it’s a CEO’s job to stay focused on the most important goals right now.
Why is this so important? Because it ensures that the CEO models the behavior from the top down. When other priorities start to trickle in, you risk contaminating the entire team by leading them in alternate directions. This slows progress and has disastrous results.
3. Align departmental goals with the company’s.
Once you have clearly defined your company’s goals at the top level, the next step is to ensure that:
1. Your entire team understands what you’re working toward at the highest level.
2. You determine sub-objectives for each department that help accomplish your company’s broader goals. Ultimately, ensure everyone is contributing to the greater whole, i.e., the essence of company alignment.
You can also take this one step further by connecting departmental sub-objectives with your broader mission. In doing so, your goals become infused with meaning. Employees start to believe in the “why” of what you’re doing, which is essential for getting them to act.
4. Translate goals into clearly defined actions.
Once you have set your goals (both at the top level and at the departmental level), it’s important to determine how they can be further refined into clearly defined actions that departments can work toward.
Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds. To do so, you need to define the action steps that will help you (e.g., eating healthier, etc.).
So, start off by outlining two or three objectives. Next, break those goals into more concrete steps.
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
In a startup, things move quickly. The content of meetings a week ago can become a distant memory. That’s why it’s so important for management to go over objectives on a daily basis.
One of the best ways to do this? Go back to your mission (step one). Connecting your objectives with your broader mission keeps them at the forefront of your startup without having to continually go into specifics.
Additionally, while it’s important to have defined goals and action steps, it’s equally important to review your progress (ideally biweekly). Reviewing your progress not only gives your team the opportunity to redirect wherever necessary, but it also serves as a continual reminder of your company’s objectives.
Remember, too, that misalignment doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process. That’s why reviewing your goals (and, more specifically, the action steps) will keep your company on the right track. One of the best ways to track progress? An internal dashboard that’s set up on the wall for all everyone to see.
7. Host daily stand-ups for everyone.
Stand-ups, daily meetings where employees report on what they’re working on, are a mainstay of software companies. However, there’s a lot of value that can come from involving everyone — or at least the core teams. Communal stand-ups give an opportunity for everyone to share what they’re working on, to collaborate and keep your goals at the very culture of your startup.
8. Celebrate success (but also be transparent about challenges).
It’s important to take the time to highlight success stories of team members or even entire departments that are working toward and hitting company goals. A great example is a team lunch. Celebrating milestones creates a culture of teamwork and reinforces your objectives.
Of course, it’s important to also be transparent as far as numbers go and to give insight into any challenges. This creates transparency and ensures everyone is on the same page.
9. Prioritize team dynamics and culture.
Concentrate on having the right team with the right attitude. The right skills are not enough. Team dynamics and culture could make or break your execution. Help your team to better communicate with each other and train their EQ so they can work effectively as a team, as I discuss further here. No individual should come above the team.
Wrapping it up.
The key to company alignment is having a mission that unites your entire team. From there, top company goals and sub-departmental objectives should work in tandem so everyone is contributing to the greater whole.
Above all, recognize that company alignment is a continual process — after all, your goals will change. Eventually, however, the process of collectively working toward them will become part of your company culture.
March 5, 2019 at 09:35AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs