As companies grow, complexities tend to grow as well, making executing growth initiatives on-time, if at all, challenging.
Fragmentation and silos become prevalent. Employees tend to work on departmental agendas rather than the overall company agenda. Everyone is busy (my LEAST favorite word, by the way), but they produce little value. There is no real focus or common purpose—too many priorities driven by too many bosses.
Let's lay out some examples of work that consumes a great deal of time and returns little value include:
- wasting valuable meeting time by rehashing problems already understood
- gathering evidence to show who is at fault for something that went wrong
- spending a significant amount of time building allies to consolidate power
When mid-market companies commonly execute poorly on their strategic
initiatives such as integrating acquisitions, entering new markets, launching new products, and scaling operations, High-Performance Teams have a very
specific rhythm of work:
- intentional times to stop working
- review what is working and what is not, and make necessary adjustments
Simple and easy, right? When you are a high-growth organization running at a rapid pace, you need to hold firm to getting the right things done at the right time and in the right sequence.
So what does that mean? Where do you start?
1. 3-5 Year Strategic Plans to define the future
Typically, senior management meets once a year to work on its long-term plan, right? However, the execution of this plan is carried out over several years, by individuals working in various departments, leading to fragmentation and
loss of common purpose.
The right way to execute on complex initiatives is to organize them as projects comprised of subject matter experts. The common purpose for everyone in that team is precision execution on the project objectives.
Technology is critical in tying strategy to action plans that are tracked weekly. I highly suggest some form of technology for tracking the status of each initiative. Then when CEOs see something that is off-track, they can drill down to find out why. This gives CEOs immediate visibility into what they need to address and prevents wasting weeks and even months before finding out bad news during quarterly meetings.
2. Annual and Quarterly Plans that drive alignment and clear direction to teams
Even though strategic plans layout annual objectives, they are not typically strategically linked to action plans - which is needed if REAL work is to be done.
The key to building and sustaining a high-performance team is to continually focus the team on achieving strategic results—the things that matter most. High-Performance teams need a tool that guides work towards expected results, linking the strategic plan to the projects and the action items within each project. Seems simple, right?
So, because the work is organized by projects - and because projects are cross-functional - those responsible for the outcomes of each project have to learn to work across the company. This builds a strong sense of unity, and reduces the possibility for silos, as we discussed in the first part of this series.
When you have frequent interaction across departments, you build and sustain High-Performance teams!
3. Weekly Meetings to alert teams of problems and resolve them quickly
One of my least favorite things is unproductive meetings! They are a huge source of frustration and wasted time for employees and executives. It is the leaders’ responsibility to make sure that teams are inspired and clear on the results they need to focus on and how to prioritize the work accordingly.
Meetings are far more productive when attendees come prepared having reviewed their metrics and know what the issues are and why. As a result, high-performance teams spend 80% or more of the meeting time discussing viable solutions to problems versus simply providing status updates.
Meetings that are focused on problem solving are a critical component of successful growth companies, especially meetings that are cross-functional; where everyone knows the status of all initiatives and what is required to achieve results. It's THEN, and only then, that companies eliminate silos and build strong trust and collaboration throughout the company and it shows with their customers too!
4. Daily focus and leadership coaching their team to success
With an engineering background and working as an operations director, I've seen my fair share of issues. The BEST practices I've seen are when companies have metric dashboards. Literally when a metric that's being measured goes out of bounds, the leadership team is notified immediately, along with any comments from the front-line teams.
This powerful combination of status and comments enables leadership to determine where and when they need to step in, keeping everyone aligned and focused on working on what matters—all in real-time. The key, as always, is to have the right system that enables CEOs and managers to measure what matters and let the CEO, department and project managers and team leaders know when they need to step in to mentor and coach towards high performance. The goal is NOT for leadership to go running in and try to save the day.
Growing talent and leaders is critical. Companies fail when they outgrow their
leaders and don’t acquire new talent with the right skills. The quality of leadership and a company’s ability to acquire needed talent is a strong measure of its viability. Investors such as Private Equity firms expect CEOs to continually upgrade talent and its leadership and will force out CEOs who fail to do so. And we don't want to go there....
Let's remember, scaling a company is one of the greatest challenges a CEO faces. As a CEOs you can't continue to directly manage all of your employees, and if you do....the company culture stays at "just do whatever it takes to keep the customer happy". That culture doesn't help companies scale fast.
As the CEO, the executive leader, your absolute top priority is to keep your
company growing rapidly and profitably. You cannot do that if your team members are fragmented. You must build cohesive, high-performing teams by setting them up for success! Make sure they know what is expected of them and ensure they are always doing what matters most.