5 Ways to Get Your Organization Moving in the Same Direction

Remember the expression “herding the cats”? I was reminded of that when watching all the pre-Superbowl hoopla and interviews with the coaches of each team. How hard it must be to take a diverse team of talented, dedicated athletes, coaches and staff and turn it into a Championship team! The Superbowl ad that illustrated this best is one of my all-time favorites.

Beyond the playing field, this is one of the biggest issues I see in the organizations I work with. Executives develop a fantastic strategy and have a clear picture & alignment on the vision, but no real strategy to get the organization moving in the same direction behind it. To be sure, you absolutely need a great story that can help people connect to the broader vision. But your strategy should be broader than just communications and should account for each of these components:

  • Define what “success” looks like. Describe in concrete, specific terms the outcomes you’re looking for. People have to visualize the picture of what this will look like for themselves and internalize it to go through the process of change it will require to adopt it. For example, an IT organization adopting agile methodology needs to connect to the outcome (e.g., ongoing development & delivery, small improvements delivered incrementally) and connect to why it matters.
  • Analyze your structure. Does your organizational structure drive silos or connectivity? Are the people who need to collaborate, hand-off and work together doing so or are there structural barriers that prevent an efficient way of working together? Is the accountability clear? These are a few of the typical questions we consider when undertaking a broader organizational design, but sometimes the answers don’t require an overhaul – they require incremental change. For example, creating a holacracy encourages teams to jump right into projects, enabling you to break down barriers and foster a strong sense of inclusion.
  • Identify the “institutional” things you have to get right. It’s easy to point to the obvious things (technology, processes, systems). But do you also have the right approach to performance management? Are people incented to deliver the right things? Do you reward the right behaviors? Mis-alignment on these critical components is often overlooked and can kill your progress toward real change.
  • Know your cultural barriers. Is your current culture a mismatch with the culture you need to create to achieve those outcomes? If you’re trying to create a data-driven, metrics-oriented and scorecard-based approach, but your culture relies on relationship building and institutional knowledge, you’ll need to identify ways to break through those barriers to start to shift the culture (for example, through role models, rewards & expectation-setting).
  • Start and move. While the task may seem herculean, the most important part is to get a few things going in the right direction and make plans to adjust others over time. Experiment and get feedback on what works and what doesn’t – and don’t be afraid of incrementalism.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at sbrowning@people-results.com or on Twitter @sbPResults.