How Aligning Your Team Can Bridge The Gap Between Strategy And Execution
Team alignment is a popular buzzword in business management, but not everyone is on the same page about what it means and why it’s essential. In the simplest terms, team alignment is when groups within the company have a similar understanding of the overall business strategy and can clearly articulate how they are working toward goals. It’s something of a holy grail in corporate environments where siloed departments can interfere with the ability to communicate and execute in a coherent, consistent way.
Achieving team alignment is vitally important to ensure your business strategy is firing on all cylinders. That’s why I pursue a management approach I call CORE — continuous objective review and execution. By reviewing team progress toward mission-critical objectives on a weekly basis, I continuously monitor and realign shifting assumptions about priorities instead of taking the temperature of the team once a quarter and tossing it in the proverbial digital filing cabinet.
CORE is a straightforward concept that allows you to establish a rhythm in your business for staying on top of strategic planning and execution. For this approach to work, you’ll need to be disciplined about fostering a team that is open, collaborative and willing to surface obstacles in non-judgmental ways as soon as they arise. Trust is a vital component of the CORE approach.
Here are four ways to integrate CORE into your management technique for better team alignment and execution.
Check In Weekly On Strategic Alignment
Often, strategic alignment is something teams do on a quarterly or yearly basis with more of a due diligence perspective than an actual desire for closer calibration. While your team may be checking in daily or weekly on progress toward specific tasks or project-related goals, these discussions are often uncoupled from the overall business strategy.
As part of my CORE management plan, I have everyone update a shared Google document weekly to share how they are performing against critical strategic initiatives. We do this ahead of staff meetings or stand-ups as a way to highlight accomplishments and reframe goals. By having each team member spend no more than 15 minutes doing this weekly, we avoid wasting precious face-to-face time giving progress updates and can spend our time ideating and problem-solving instead.
Have Transparent One-On-Ones
Touching base as a team is important, but it’s equally vital to gather feedback and realign on an individual basis. You can choose to do this in a way that suits the style and the schedule of the employee, whether it’s via email, in person or as part of a quarterly review for team members who you don’t engage with daily. These one-on-ones can go a long way toward addressing friction on project objectives and can give individuals an opportunity to call out issues they might feel uncomfortable discussing in a group setting.
For my CORE one-on-ones, I typically use a format that mirrors the weekly status sheet with additional fields for the employee to detail individual priorities, employee development opportunities, and specific feedback they’d like to share with me.
Create A Compelling Scorecard
It’s essential that your team is able to visualize and have clearly identified, targeted goals that align with the overall business strategy. But are you sure everyone knows what those benchmarks are and that they can see them as definitively as you do? Map out how each project goal ties back to the strategy and encourage your team members to articulate their progress against those goals. This exercise can become a scoreboard of sorts that is a compelling component of quarterly performance reviews. Look at the scorecards of the quarter’s initiatives alongside your financial performance to generate discussion and momentum toward improvement.
As part of my quarterly reviews, I create a dashboard of all the projects we’ve worked on over the course of the quarter. As we run through each initiative, we detail our strategic alignment and create two columns for “impact” and “difficulty.” Using a visualization tool like this to frame the team’s priorities helps more clearly define what is moving the needle and what is essentially dead weight. Be ruthless about reviewing these initiatives and have open and honest conversations about performance. It’s much better to drive hard on this alignment within your team than to answer for the resulting failure to execute to your boss or the board.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
It’s a cliche that’s worth repeating. You can’t make sure everyone is on the same page unless you’re communicating clearly. This requires both trust and transparency from your team.
Make sure to communicate on at least a monthly (if not weekly) basis about your team’s progress toward their goals and their alignment with strategic objectives. Do whatever you need to do to catch the attention of your team and hold them accountable. Color code your progress or put flashing neon lights on your scoreboard to highlight where you’re falling behind. Be careful to take ownership of both the good and the bad. Apathy thrives where communication is scarce, so be clear and concise about the team’s strategic plan and encourage every member to articulate and own it in their own words.
While CORE principles may seem simple, putting them into daily action requires discipline and rigor that will help you bridge the gap between strategy and flawless execution.