Why Everyone Needs to Understand Where Your Company is Headed
The bigger a company gets, and the faster it’s growing, the harder it is to get everybody on the same page. The issue is that there probably isn’t an easily understood page to get everyone on. In all likelihood there are many pages, actual and mental, together with meeting notes and emails, each intended to explain the vision, mission, and strategy of your business. Furthermore, most of these messages are full of unclear or even conflicting statements concerning who your company is, what it does, and how it does it.
It’s no wonder that one of the most common problems in growing companies is that people don’t understand where the company is headed and their role in getting it there. There is so much going on that strategy and critical priorities are unclear and not widely understood, even at times among senior management.
Employees Lack Critical – and Basic – Insight
In many organizations, people either don’t know the most important goals, or if they do, they don’t know what to do about them. Without clarity about the company’s top goals, people lack the context for making strategic and tactical decisions. And they often create their own version of the company’s direction.
The absence of a firm direction causes the organization to work at cross-purposes, reducing the collective commitment, cohesion, and teamwork from all employees. Departments pursue individual initiatives without coordinating or even communicating their efforts. Externally, the market receives mixed signals.
When there is no overriding vision or sense of direction, the organization lurches from success to failure, opportunity to opportunity. People may leave because they cannot make the connection between what they do on a day-to-day basis and how that impacts results. And perhaps most disastrous to a growing company, the absence of a clear vision creates too much dependence on a few key individuals.
Strategic Focus is Nowhere to Be Found
In many cases, the organization simply lacks strategic focus. Most growing organizations are juggling too many “top” priorities to achieve the level of focus they need to succeed. Wanting to cover all their bases, they establish a long list of unrelated objectives and spread their scarce time, energy, and resources across them. When there are too many top priorities, none of those objectives is going to get the attention it deserves.
The Warning Signs
If people are unclear about the company’s direction, there are multiple warning signs. There are so many growth initiatives that no one can name them all. Every day, managers attend meeting after meeting on completely unrelated topics. Incentives may motivate people in ways that actually undermine the company’s strategic priorities. Asked to name the top company’s top priorities, different people give different answers. Your best people are overwhelmed because they are working on so many programs and projects. Meanwhile, you are underinvesting in some areas where you could potentially build a distinct edge against you competitors.
Clarify the Company’s Direction
Set the overall vision, direction, and strategy of the company and communicate them with clarity to all stakeholders. This guides everyone inside and outside of your organization by explaining who you are, where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.
Although the company’s direction may be clear to those at the top, it is critical to cascade it to all levels of the organization. People have to know where the company is headed. And not only does it have to be crystal clear, simple, tangible, energizing, and highly focused but everybody in the organization has to:
- Understand it instantly with little or no explanation
- Have line of sight to that goal
- Understand their role in helping the company move into the future
When it comes to reinforcing the direction of the company, there is no such thing as too much communication. If you provide sufficient clarity about the company’s direction, you’ll leave little room for confusion, disorder, and infighting.
Attaining high levels of employee engagement is simply not possible if people don’t clearly understand where the company is headed. The responsibility for creating that clarity lies solely with the leadership team.
Focus on Top Priorities
Good strategy forces prioritization. In consistent growth companies, strategic priorities are specific, actionable, and—most critically—widely understood at all levels of the company. No organization or individual can focus on or accomplish more than three or four priorities in a given period of time.
Knowing these priorities reminds people what’s important. And focusing people on the top priorities is the best way to immediately and tangibly impact your organization.
By eliminating doubt and confusion your organization will have the freedom and speed to move forward rapidly.
Does everyone know where your company is headed?