I find long weekends are the perfect opportunity to meet up with friends who I haven’t seen for a while, share in good food, laughter and catch up with what has been going in each other’s lives since we last met. However, like most business owners am sure, I find it difficult not to “talk shop” at some point during the gathering. Especially so when your friends also own their own companies! At one of these events, I was asked what I thought was the secret to operating a successful company. My friend did not want a long answer, but I could not reply succinctly because having worked side-by-side with some of New Zealand’s top mid-market companies, I know that most businesses have their own unique business challenges and that there are a number of steps that need to be undertaken in order to become a high performance company. Instead I told him that his question would form the basis of my first blog of the year and that I would send him a link when it was written.
In previous blogs I have written about the importance of strategy, framework and having the right people in the right roles for your company in order for your company to thrive. But another important ingredient to success is ensuring that your staff’s goals and values are aligned with those of your company and that they are committed to following through on the strategy you have set. According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and other best- selling books on business management, alignment is a matter of employing staff who are:
“Disciplined people who engage with disciplined thought and who take disciplined action (operating with freedom within a frame work of responsibilities)”.
When I look at the mid-market clients that I work with as well as the other companies that I know who are high performance companies, I see compound growth each year of between 15% – 25%, and a strong net profit of 18% – 25%+. They have all overcome different challenges in order to have achieved these results. But one of the things that have all had in common, is that they work hard to ensure that their staff know what the company values and goals are; that they believe in what the company wants to achieve and that they are focused on what they need to do in order to achieve those results. In short, when everyone has been clear on the aims of the company and has worked in alignment, achieving success has been much easier to do.
Why is alignment important?
As a business leader, you are the architect of your company’s future. Your strategy is in effect a blueprint of how the company should be built and perform. When blueprints are clear, visible to all employees and communicated regularly, then all employees also have a clear vision of what needs to be built, how their individual pieces fit together and what a successful build looks like.
If your company is not performing as well as you have communicated it should, then it is worth taking some time to check that your staff and their roles are working to the ‘blueprint’ you have set and are working in alignment.
Symptoms of misalignment between your company’s strategy and staff expectations and performance include:
- Employees not being on the same page about what needs to be achieved.
- People going in different directions, often around in circles.
- ‘People fires’ in the company which can cause internal politics, arguments and execution of parts of the plan at the wrong time.
When these symptoms are present, the result will be that you and your management team will waste a lot of time and energy trying to ‘fix things’. Staff will become unhappy in their work because they are not sure what to do; have to cover for other people’s work; do not know who is accountable for what, or do not receive adequate recognition for their performance.
Having no or poor alignment between your staff and the company’s goals and values will also result in poor productivity with low growth and in a worst case scenario, your company stalling altogether or achieving negative results.
How to achieve alignment within your company
The building blocks to achieving alignment within your company include:
- Having a strategy that is simple, clear and defines the why, how, who and what the company is in business for. Often the overall strategy can be distilled down to one phrase.
- The strategy is accessible to all staff, is clearly visible and talked about often.
- As part of the induction process all staff learn about company strategy, and how their role fits in with achieving the goals set. They are also given defined responsibilities and know what part of the process they are accountable for.
- Employees are hired not only on the skills that they will bring to the company but also how well they will fit in with the values of the business.
Installing a business framework that works for your company will also help you achieve alignment within your company. I have helped many business use frameworks such as Scaling Up, Four Decisions and Outthinker to improve their business’s profitability, growth and alignment. A recent example is my work with NZ mid-market growth company Touchpoint.
If you think that your company is suffering from a misalignment, give me a call today and we can have a chat about how I can help you and your business.