One of the most powerful forces in business is alignment.
If we can get people (companies, teams, departments, etc.) on the same page, our efforts will be fruitful. If not, there is endless frustration. And, we’ll lose our best people (what does Gallup have to say about this? see footnote below*).
So, what does it mean to get everyone on the same page?
What it doesn’t mean is to post the corporate Mission Statement on the wall, and assume that we now have practical oneness of direction. That works approximately zero percent of the time, give or take a couple of decimal places.
You know how general and vague corporate Mission Statements are, right? They are fine for giving us the aspirational goals and intentions of the organization at the highest level, but they can never produce unified effort in the specifics of a department, team, or project.
That’s why we need clarity statements – simple, straightforward phrases (think keywords and succinct sentences) that become – for our particular group – the “page” we align around. Think of it as a specific mission statement.
What does that look like? I’ll draw from my experience working with major life sciences (biopharma) corporations.
Such big companies have overall mission statement such as, “________ exists to advance human health by focused effort on developing effective treatments for rare neurological diseases, etc., etc., etc.”
That’s positive and descriptive as far as it goes, but it doesn’t really help me in leading my team in the specifics of its R&D, Commercial, Operations, Security, Business Development, or Compliance function (or any of 30 other departments). Why? Because while the overall corporate mission umbrella may be advancing human health, each of those groups has very specific sub-functions.
So do divisions. And cross-functional teams. And, even each specific project has goals, guardrails, and outcomes. That’s why we need specific clarity pages.
I’ve helped some of my Commercial Training and Development clients develop their clarity pages, so that they can continuously explain their purpose and strategic value within the organization (including to executives that determine annual budgets), and rally their trainers around a common mission. This department-level clarity page typically has the following simple format.
- Overall business purpose in one sentence;
- Three keywords that describe the differentiating value-adds of the department;
- Three simple, memorable phrases (based on the keywords) that become both the practical GPS and the mantra of the group.
Sound simple? It’s not – it’s a form of creative branding, and typically takes an intensive day of brainstorming. But once the identity and mission of the group is clear, how many questions are resolved just by having those statements as the enduring touchstone!
ALIGNING CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS
But we can go even deeper than that. Let’s say that a (multi-disciplinary) product launch team is assembled that is responsible for a successful launch of a new drug in 18 months. That group, including its trainers, needs a practical charter that spells out its purpose, goals, and direction. We definitely need all members of that group to get on (and stay on) the same page. What would that look like?
- Overall business goal in one sentence;
- Three keywords that describe the operational goals of the launch team;
- Three simple, memorable phrases (based on the keywords) that become both the practical GPS and the mantra of the launch team.
ALIGNING PROJECT TEAMS
And then, there will be a multitude of specific projects that this team will take on, including stakeholders from various areas (including outside vendors). When each project has a charter (or clarity page), then everyone involved can be aligned with the direction and goal of the project at kickoff (and be brought back to it over time). It’s the GPS of the work.
What are some of the most common responses we hear when things go astray in our organizations? “I didn’t know that.” “Nobody told me that.” “When did we agree to that?” No clarity page = no alignment. Especially when there are a lot of moving parts over time.
As with any GPS, someone has to set the direction. Leaders can save themselves, and their teams, a world of grief and inefficiency by crafting a clarity page for their groups. Unless our intention is to wander aimlessly, no-one starts a journey without a clear destination and a map.
(as part of my consulting practice, I help companies create their clarity pages, both for branding/marketing, and for operational excellence. Reach out to me at AskSteve@impactiviti.com and we can discuss your challenges).
You can learn more about the role of clarity in business in my book, Clarity Wins. Clarity is the key to winning for for any size business, by the way – from start-ups to Top 50.
* According to Gallup: “Talented, engaged people need assurance that their organization is making the right decisions and driving a smart strategy. And they want to be part of a strong culture with a well-defined purpose and strategic direction. Only 22% of employees strongly agree that the leadership of their organization has a clear direction for their organization. Fewer yet, 15%, strongly agree that the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future, and 13% strongly agree that their leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.”