More than ever, teams may be struggling to connect to the larger vision and mission of the organization. Perhaps that has even changed given today’s circumstances or the mission is the same but the ways we execute on that mission have changed.
I have had a few conversations lately that result in people asking why we are focusing on something; why is this project suddenly so important; why should I stop doing what I am doing to pick up something else.
Knowing and communicating the “why” cannot be underrated. We all know this but, oftentimes, we get caught up in executing and meeting deadlines that we forget to establish the objective and purpose behind why we are doing what we are doing.
I have even caught myself a couple times saying lately that we really need to get things over the finish line because we committed to do them. While it is a valid reason to finish what you start, it never hurts to review the business reason behind our work.
As a manager, we never want to fall into the parent trap of “Because I said so…” or “Because our leader says so.” That is a cop out. It is also an opportunity to think about or ask your leader about the why. If I don’t know the why as a manager, then how can I expect my team to know it?
I have written before that this is a good time to review priorities to see if they are the highest impact projects to be working on. As we continue to stay in a new way of working, I find reviewing this quarterly will help people stay connected to bigger picture.
Some companies have evolved their mission to be more about keep people connected, becoming more efficient, providing service in a high touch way virtually. Whatever the strategy is, find ways to connect the work to those new strategies. And, if the work you are doing doesn’t connect, maybe revisit if this is the right time to pursue.
To help your team connect to the big picture strategy, here are 7 quick tips that I like to follow and need to keep in the forefront to make sure everyone knows the “why”:
- Ask your team. If my team doesn’t understand why we are doing something, I first ask them to tell me what they think. Sometimes, I get an answer: “I honestly don’t know.” Well, that is honest and then I know we have work to do. More often than not, they actually come up with their own answer. That provides an opportunity to discuss, agree and tweak, if necessary.
- Break out the deck. I find it helpful to review that department/company strategy deck that always gets presented at the beginning of the year to review the top priorities. Discuss with the team if we can fit our projects underneath one of the priorities. If not, then ask yourself should it be on the list to do right now.
- Plan as a team. Have you had a team planing session where you create your purpose, scope and strategic alignment? Or, is this something you did back in November? It is time to do this again. I will even admit that I have been so busy that I have gotten away from doing team planning and ensuring our efforts are aligned to the broader strategy. People support what they create and being involved in setting team priorities helps them stay connected and feel a part of the team.
- Invite a guest. To help connect our efforts to a bigger picture, I have asked others from the business and different areas of the company to come speak to my team. This helps us see a different part of the organization. If you work in a support function like I do, hearing from the front line is invaluable to know if what we are doing helps them achieve their goals.
- Ask others. Similar to the above, recap your projects and priorities and share that with others to get their opinions. Ask if they feel this scope of work meets their needs and will help them accomplish their strategy. If possible, have a steering body or group of people you can bring your plans to for validation on a regular basis. I am finding especially now that this group of advisors is more important.
- Articulate objectives in your project. In one of my project management posts, I talk about creating objectives. Having the high-level strategy and business objectives defined at the beginning of a project helps keep it aligned. It is a step often skipped as we jump to creating and executing on the solution. Tying effort back to the strategy keeps people connected to the overall purpose.
- Schedule virtual connects. Now is a great time to encourage your team, and yourself, to have virtual coffee chats with people to ensure you are aware of the big picture and aligning everything you’re working on to that vision.
What happens when there is no “deck” or strategic goals or statement to get behind? While most companies have these, I have certainly worked for some where they did not. Or, if they did, they were not explicitly shared. I say create one…or, at least create one for your group. Align this with your leader and others and use it as a guidepost. There is nothing wrong with taking some initiative here to help connect the team to a higher purpose.
Staying connected to the larger picture can be challenging if it continues to change in our current environment. Staying connected to the strategy means staying connected to the people. You cannot have one without the other. Whether individually or as a group, I encourage you to know what your sales, service, product, quality goals are….whatever your industry. If you don’t, start meeting up with people and ask.