Some days we get so busy solving problems as leaders and managers that we forget that most people will shift their thinking only after new behaviors have led to results that matter to them and have been validated by others. The best leaders understand this and recognize that building cultural clarity and alignment is playing the long game. As Jon Katzenbach, Ilona Steffen and Caroline Kronley in their article,“Cultural Change That Sticks,” Harvard Business Review, July-August 2012, note “deeply embedded cultures change slowly over time.” We have to be patient then with this level of work.
Still, I have seen alignment take place over the course of my career. In these organizations, leaders make some unique choices. First, results matter within these organizations, i.e. qualitatively and quantitatively at all levels of the organization, not just at the senior team level. You can visit with front line staff or the senior most people and all of them are talking about outcomes and results.
Second, there is “line of sight” within these organizations. My daily actions and my quarterly goals all connect with the current strategic plan and with the overall mission. Here, alignment is defined as shared beliefs and shared behaviors which achieve a collective goal, outcome, or result. It is not a vague idea but instead is an executable reality and choice.
Next, the leaders of these companies agree with John Doerr in his book, Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs (Portfolio, 2018) when he writes: “Healthy culture and structured goal setting are interdependent. They’re natural partners in the quest for operating excellence.”
From my perspective, there also is one more small but important difference in these organizations, namely there is a clear difference by all involved about what are committed goals, i.e. ones tied to metrics and well defined action plans, and aspirational goals, which reflect big picture, higher-risk, more future-tilting ideas and efforts.
This week, I encourage you to sit down with your team and discuss the following two questions: Do we know the difference between committed goals and aspirational goals as a group? Are we clear about who is working on which ones? This level of dialogue and the resulting clarity will make a big difference this coming summer.