For some strange reason, I have spent the last six years obsessively pondering the world of business strategies and vision, how to set a clear view that establishes a real sense of purpose throughout the organisation, with a clear mission and a plan for making it happen. In essence, my interest has evolved around why such a small part of a company’s people feel connected to the company’s vision. Why it, in more cases than less, at best is considered as an obvious but blunt thing or at worst pointless empty phrases that is developed with too much distance from the day to day work life.
I have done this pondering running my startup, It’s in the Node, where we consistently work to understand how you can create a more true-to-life picture for each person which lets everyone connect their own goals towards the company vision.
I think it is a lot about participation. Actively choosing to participate. Because it is somewhere here the problem lies. There is always a conflict between what I as a person am most passionate about working on and what the company I am working for needs to get done (or at least thinks it needs). In a perfect world, this conflict is almost non-existing, but in most cases, it is there. And as we all know, there is no such thing as perfect.
The conflict needs attention. Research claims that only 14% feel connected to the company’s vision, which is suspiciously close to the number 13% from Gallup on how many are actively engaged in their work. In fact, there are even more people that are actively disengaged, 17.2%, than actively engaged (!). The work that the leadership teams are doing to communicate where the company wants to go is hard work and takes a lot of effort, time and focus from the company at whole. If the effect from this work is not only seen out but even negative, then there is undoubtedly something to think about how to solve. My conviction is that the way to solve it is to look at how goals are set.
Today’s goal setting and performance management is, in most cases, a top-down approach. You go through the company’s latest vision statement, run a status analysis process by going through the most recent data on financials and employee surveys. From here, you then create an execution plan containing the primary company objectives and activities that need to happen to achieve the objectives. By the time you have reached the last two levels of the company, the energy in the process has peaked, and the execution of it is not what it should be. This can have large negative effects since these groups in the company are where you find the most people.
"if all members of a team feel a strong sense of participation, then the performance of the team will be 50% higher"
I think you have to include the individual perspective. Looking at the team from each individual member’s values and drives, and then move on to looking at the group from each of the different team’s values and drivers and then the region and then the business area and so on until you have achieved a holistic view of the total company perception of vision and execution. It takes more effort to get started, but it makes everyone participate. And the degree of participation is crucial.
Research shows that if all members of a team feel a strong sense of participation, then the performance of the team will be 50% higher and if this participation is rooted in personal values then it becomes even better - engagement increases with 30%. Let that sink in. If you create clarity around the personal values in your team - then engagement will increase with 30%.
It is because of this we took to the Vision Sprint during spring. A DIY-workshop for people to set a shared vision within their teams. The workshop is based on Google’s research on managers and team, and the very first part of the workshop is an exercise to compare the different personal values within the group. Based on science, but refreshingly concrete.
Since we published the Vision Sprint, we’ve received very good feedback from the teams that have gone through it. As one of the main takeaways from the numerous follow-up interviews conducted was that people were used to discussing the company’s values, but they hadn’t before included their personal values. The workshop is designed to bring the whole team through its Why, What and How. Each segment is also allowing the team to reflect on the company-wide perspective, and how their perception may be or may not be skewed accordingly. The output of the workshop is clarity and a set of quarterly focus areas to which the team members can set up OKRs (we sell a simple tool for doing that last part).
In today’s fast-moving world of work, we cannot wait for slow-moving top-down processes. Goals need to develop from merely being a controller tool with KPIs to becoming one of the main tools to build engagement and understanding towards where we are going as an organisation. To achieve this we cannot solely look at the need of the company; it is a complex dance between several factors and drivers, and in order to handle this we need to have participation from each human’s creativity and action to create real value.
Your organisation has a huge opportunity - it’s in the Node.