Companies that achieve alignment realize better results and a more efficient workflow. By alignment, I mean that all associates, departments, divisions, and corporate are all working toward achieving a set of pre-defined, measurable objectives that support the mission and push the company towards its vision. By examining functions and associates’ roles and the utilization of a business planning process, this article explores solutions to achieving alignment and increasing the probability of improving financial results and organizational efficiency, effectiveness, and employee engagement.
Achieving profitability for your business is why you are in business. Core functions of marketing, advertising, sales, technology, financial management, and human resources, and other functions, all working seamlessly and interdependently are the hallmark of solid business infrastructure for most mid-sized and large companies. Unfortunately, many departments work in silos and their leaders do not realize the potential for exponential success if they were to work with other department heads on universal or common issues associated with profitability. Workgroup leads and/or individual contributors who, too, find themselves working in silos within their department. What’s needed are goals and objectives that bring everyone under the same umbrella working toward universally common business needs.
Functions and People
The people you are hiring today and those who have been with the company for weeks, months, or years need guidance to do their jobs well. Most employees want to know what is expected of them. These human assets play a pivotal role in making things happen in your company. They are the activators of the aforementioned key functions. But how well are each and all of your people equipped to accomplish the work that matters? Getting everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction is a key role for you as the leader. A unified organization is a strong organization.
There are several ways to begin to gain alignment of the company’s expectations and peoples’ understanding and acceptance of them:
- Create, document, and publicly post a compelling mission statement that people will remember, so keep it short. The mission describes why your organization exists.
- Establish a long-term vision for the company. The vision statement is an inspirational statement of an idealistic view of the future of a company (To be the best x in the industry).
- Set achievable, measurable, relevant, and time-bound company goals and strategic objectives that illustrate to associates what is important, then roll these down to departments and work teams to create their own objectives that align with the strategic objectives of the company.
- Establish a behavior-assessed set of universal values. Values are the spine of the company. They guide people’s behavior to act in a manner that demonstrates a commitment to the company and respect for fellow associates. Take a look at the site called personal valu.es to get some ideas on how to define your company’s values and those of your associates. A dynamic business planning system will help to strengthen core values-based behavior and reinforce cultural paradigms. The need for universally accepted values underpins the heart and soul of the company.
- Nurture a culture that acts as a barometer of organizational health. Culture is the outward expression and application of the company’s values. How associates conduct themselves and treat fellow associates and clients helps to define culture. Culture cannot be driven by management edict. It is the state of collective behavior within an organization.
Determining these elements are well suited to executive team collaboration. Creating and executing a communication plan to share this information is vital.
Use Your Best Thinking
To pull the aspects of functions and people together you need to prepare and actively employ business plans. These plans are the basis of successful business integration. When I say plans, I mean that each department’s or work group’s leader should have and use a business plan aligned with the company’s strategic business goals and objectives. In other words, these individual plans must sum up to the goals and measurements of success that drive the company’s positive results.
Many business plans get mired in mind-numbing data and minutia at the onset and never get off the ground. Guided by the mission, vision, and goals, what is needed are clear and achievable measurable objectives and well-thought-through action plans designed to achieve the objectives to propel your key performance indicators. And do not forget to administer a two-way, comprehensive communication plan.
I suggest that your strategic goals and objectives be reviewed annually, as the pace of change in many aspects of doing business successfully is significant.
Measurement and Adjustment
Having clear and periodically measured objectives are the elements of a scorecard from which you can determine what action plans are working and which need to be tweaked or replaced. Similarly, objectives may need to be recalibrated. Business planning is a dynamic undertaking. Getting the plan right is the key priority. Constant attention to results will guide your thinking about what is working and what is not.
Monthly one-on-one meetings between the supervisor and the individual associates responsible for implementing the action plans should be scheduled and then a recap shared with the whole team of the aggregate results. In this way, expectations and accountabilities are reinforced and agreement between parties can be reached and documented. These meetings should not be one-way lectures, rather a collaborative discussion on how to improve performance and results. This undertaking should help enhance employee engagement, once habits are formed. Employees want to do a good job and knowing what their job is creating job satisfaction. Achieving results tied to a greater purpose adds to their enthusiasm.
The management team should also plan to meet monthly to review departmental, team, or project team progress. I suggest this be done in a group setting with the CEO or president facilitating the process. Questions from the CEO and questions from peers are encouraged to generate discussion and the creation of solutions to help objectives get better achieved. This session is not an “I got ya” moment; it’s a moment when the entire management team is reminded of the vision and mission and how their achievement of objectives, strategies, and action plan help to fulfill that vision and mission.
Business Planning and Implementation
Achieving your objectives is a function of the results generated by the teams and departments. If objectives are not achieved, then analysis of action plan effectiveness is required to get to the “why”. The review of objectives should answer the question: Are they attainable within the time frame required? If individual or general team performance is at the center of poor results, then documented training, coaching, and/or accountabilitycounseling must be done. To paraphrase Jim Collins, having the right people in the rights seats is as important as having clearly written objectives and measures thereof. Your people are responsible for driving positive results. Make sure that each person knows and accepts their role in achieving the mission and their own objectives.
As with every asset, you need to be prepared to invest time and money in preparing people to master their roles in achieving the desired outcomes. This includes:
- Prescriptive, competence-based training (tested and results documented)
- Documented, objective performance reviews (semi-annual)
- Measurable, documented individual development plans. (Review semi-annually.)
If there is no will to succeed in accomplishing the assigned objectives, then termination or reassignment is warranted. You don’t need to weigh the organization down with non-players.
Preparing for the Future
Career and succession planning are essential in retaining high potential, well-performing associates as well as maintaining continuity in the instance of a hand-off of responsibilities.
Your future leaders who will be charged with delivering results must be brought into the supervisor’s role ready to implement the planning process. And when it comes to new hires, one part of the selection process is to ascertain the candidate’s values. There are validated testing instruments to help you determine alignment or dissonance on this point. If there is dissonance, you’d better pass. Values are the foundation of whether or not the individual has the potential to be a good fit in your high-performance organization.
In all instances, people alignment is your goal. Without it, some achievements may fall short of desired results. Business plans are blueprints, but the blueprints must be followed to build a strong performing organization. That is why you need the right people in the right seats leading and doing the work. While the business plan will not address the top-down communication and downstream discussion, these communications are essential to successfully implementing the plan.
Business success is driven, in part, by a group of interdependent people with single-mindedness, using processes and tools that work. This does not happen magically. This function and the role-related multi-faceted system must be managed top-down and scrutinized for slack and misdirection. This important leadership responsibility is what will keep your train on the tracks of success and better ensures you will hit your profitability targets.
Pulling all of the elements of function, people and business planning together can be a challenge. The leader needs to explain to associates what aligned business planning is all about and what will happen and why. Good business planning is part of a change process and needs to be managed as such.
It’s recommended that starting the aligned business planning process be staggered, with the departmental, team leader, or project leader with the highest, perceived will to become fully engaged in the process. Word will spread and the improved, well-promoted results will encourage fence-sitters to get in the game. Critical mass will drive the balance of the organization to full implementation.
A Practical Solution to Alignment
I have reviewed many business planning systems and have found The One Page Business Plan is a superior tool and process to help you achieve aligned results. The plan is broken down into pieces that guide the planner in establishing solid objectives and action plans tied to the company goals and mission. This cloud-based system allows leaders to view the macro-results of the aggregated level of objectives’ achievement as well as individual departmental objectives’ achievement. Individuals post their results online and leaders input the status of their action plans and quantified results to the cloud-based reporting system which can be uploaded to an assigned senior team leader for analysis and recommended action. This is the only plan I have researched that offers both strategic and tactical planning elements.
The One Page Business Plan Company has a geographically dispersed corps of high performing, certified coaches who can help you create and begin to implement a One Page Business Plan.
The One Page Business Plan is the linchpin to achieving desired business results. Once organizational action plans and objectives are reported, viewing them on-line is straightforward. And the planning system works for small businesses and individual business owners and those in individual practices as well. The process is the same.
If you get the plan right and the people right, your likelihood of success is great. But as you have read, communication is a key element of the plan’s launch and maintenance. It is the thing that turns words on paper into action and action into results!
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