HR: If You Want To Help Your Company To Stay Competitive You Need To Get Really At Choosing The Right Battles & Aligning People Around Them
What you learn from studying company strategy and helping companies find theirs is that it’s not a topic that many leaders understand as well as they should.
So what is the essence of strategy? Roger Martin articulates what strategy is really well when he describes it in terms of deciding what your ‘field of play is’, which can be a market, a market segment or niche, and then deciding how you think you can win against your competitors on that field of play.
Choosing the play in a place with huge and powerful competitors without the ability to compete is rarely a good idea, which is why for many choosing a small niche makes more sense as you can then work out how to serve those customers much better than those covering much bigger fields of play. You might choose to articulate this in your mission statement or purpose.
Once you’ve worked out where you’re going to play you might then choose to articulate the “battlegrounds you must win” – these are often called Strategic Pillars.
The importance of being able to share your mission and strategy is it gives everyone in the company direction and their own sense of purpose. It also helps them contribute to winning those battles.
If your strategy is hidden amongst a long wordy planning document, a budget and a forecast. The chances are you’re not ready to align your people around your strategy. Having a target revenue and profit number is nothing more than a KPI with a target and how you propose to measure the success of your strategy.
Aligning Your People & Winning
Once you know the battles you want to win, how do you ensure teams and the people in them are all helping you to win them?
The goal setting framework and the operational processes locked within the framework’s best-practices were specifically designed to help leadership teams execute their strategy, and teams to help leadership teams deliver it.
Look at team OKRs as an invitation to align Objectives and specific measurable outcome based targets called Key Results with those battlegrounds. Those team OKRs can follow both your org-chart names e.g. marketing as well as cross-functional OKR specific teams e.g, App Launch Team.
What then follows is a commitment to working towards those goals and adopting a regular update called a check-in and discussion team cadence focused at priority setting and issue resolution.
It’s also worth mentioning that OKRs are not needed as business as usual KPI replacements as you can use team KPIs as team KPIs!
All The Way Down To Personal Performance & Developmental Goals
The principle of being invited to align can cascade all the way down to personal performance and developmental goals as well.
“This is what the company is trying to achieve, how can you support the company and how can the company support you?”
The benefit of being strategic and personal goal setting together is that it creates a line of sight on the impact you’re making in your team and personally. Something that employees often say is lacking in their role currently. They are busy but they are not sure how that busyness is helping.
Operationalizing Alignment & Information Flow
Goal management is essentially a process that outlines the steps that are followed in planning and execution periods – years, quarters and weeks, to set and work towards and hopefully achieve your goals.
Bringing your mission, strategy and strategic and personal OKRs together in a process based goal management system like ZOKRI is a good way to ensure the process follows best-practices and is working for all the various stakeholders (leaders and their reports).
Given the importance and value of strategic goal delivery and having a systemized way of ensuring employees are being developed, what is not ideal are documents and systems that don’t do the job very well. For example, HRIS systems tend to be poor at goal management, with all but the basic fields of entry being present, and rarely having the features actually needed. Spreadsheets when used for goals in medium or large companies tend to have low levels of engagement and suffer from “set and forget” behaviors.
What operational success looks like is having visible adherence to your planning and execution cycle. Being able to see that the process is working, the level of progress towards goals, and areas or risk and achievement. You can also define processes and workflows that ensure that goals are being thought about and set in the right way.
- Learning how to create and articulate your winning strategy is a key leaderships skill
- Using frameworks like OKRs to execute that strategy is a great way of reducing any strategic execution risk
- There are advantages using OKRs for personal and development goals in addition to strategic goals
- The chances of ensure goals are achieved is also increased by ensuring the right processes and tooling is being used to manage this area