Mission Alignment Is Critical: Here’s How to Achieve It
Knowledge workers thrive on meaningful work, and this meaning comes from feeling connected to an organization’s vision and strategy. Slack’s State of Work survey finds numerous benefits when knowledge workers align with organizational goals — 90% of these employees know how to be successful at work, 86% understand their company’s strategy, and 75% feel empowered to make strategic decisions or harness new opportunities.
But with hybrid-work models becoming commonplace, many leaders struggle to communicate their organizations’ high-level vision and strategy — let alone create a mission-aligned workforce. The traditional toolbox of annual in-person meetings, CEO addresses, and company off-sites don’t work or aren’t possible with today’s distributed workforce.
Still, the stakes for alignment couldn’t be higher. When workforces aren’t aligned with the enterprise’s mission, employees feel disengaged, and morale plummets. And organizational goals unravel with derailed operations, stalled innovation, and friction across the enterprise.
How can leaders achieve the mission alignment crucial to modern enterprise success?
The Benefits of an OKRs Culture
Modern leaders must build a culture that supports an aligned, results-driven workforce. And an OKRs (objectives and key results) management approach could be the answer. This methodology helps leaders create workforce alignment by setting goals and measurable results at a team level and tying them to the bigger picture of organizational strategy and vision.
This OKRs methodology isn’t particularly new. While the ideology traces back to management principles founded back in the 1950s, the execution of these principles has changed to keep pace with our digital working world. After all, it’s undeniably harder for executives to communicate an organization’s strategy in distributed enterprises and for teams to translate how their efforts affect the big picture.
Enter technology, in particular, OKRs software. Purpose-built OKRs platforms cut across departments, organizational charts, and geographic and cultural barriers to make mission alignment possible. Using technology, employees can collaborate across departments to set their OKRs.
The platform then provides visualizations that allow different functions to track how their specific roles and responsibilities contribute to organizational goals. In other words, it unites everyone around outcomes, ensuring they align to support one another in pursuit of enterprise success.
How to Accomplish an OKRs Culture
I’d be thrilled if that were the end of the story, and OKRs technology could deliver mission alignment on a silver platter. But while OKRs provide a critical framework for mission alignment, they do not replace human managers. Nor do they fix flawed management.
Allow me to debunk the five most common OKRs myths that keep teams from finding mission alignment.
Myth 1: OKRs will fix management problems.
Truth: OKRs create enterprise-wide transparency, but transparency makes broken things more pronounced.
Executives can buy an OKRs solution — or any management solution — but it will fail without solid leadership. Executives need to create an overall strategy, and leaders need to set clear expectations for their teams to support it. OKRs software illustrates where the organization is heading, thus providing value and purpose to the workforce’s day-to-day work.
Myth 2: Leaders should roll out OKRs to everyone, all at once.
Truth: Pilot OKRs in phases, starting with high-performing teams.
When rolling out OKRs in large enterprises, leaders should pilot the mindset and support technology with teams that work cross-functionally to produce high-quality outcomes. This approach may seem counterintuitive, but it will help leadership test OKRs software for a few cycles and respond to feedback before scaling to the entire business. Once pilot teams start performing even better, adoption will take off, and OKRs will become foundational to the organization. It’s a flexible, natural adoption model that performs better than a “my way or the highway” policy.
Myth 3: Employees don’t think strategically enough for an OKRs approach.
Truth: The leadership team often lacks a strategy or hasn’t shared it.
OKRs are not a replacement for lack of strategy. Executives must lead the business toward its vision and mission so that everyone else can be in lockstep delivering on that vision. People can’t follow something that doesn’t exist. For total alignment, leadership must create a strategy and effectively communicate it so internal teams understand what they are working toward within their groups and across an entire enterprise. If the why is missing, alignment is unattainable.
Myth 4: OKRs help executives achieve visibility.
Truth: OKRs provide bidirectional transparency.
A prerequisite to an OKRs approach is a genuine interest in organizational transparency — what the organization is working toward and how it will get there with the workforce’s support. This is notably different from visibility, where the leadership gets a unidirectional look into what’s happening at every level of the organization. OKRs are not meant to be used to monitor workforces.
Myth 5: Leaders should set top-down, moonshot OKRs for teams.
Truth: Leaders should start with committed Key Results first and negotiate stretch KRs with their teams over time.
If leaders push for too much too soon, they create excessive stress levels and diminish motivation. Leaders should provide guidance and negotiate with their teams to produce the ideal key results, contending with some friction and push-back and dancing between encouragement and realism. And listening serves another purpose. It engenders trust and empowerment and stops the stifled engagement that hinders any hope of mission alignment.
A mentor once gave me great advice: take care of your people, and they’ll take care of the mission. Implementing an OKRs approach is taking care of your people so they can realize the organization’s mission. It bridges the gap between strategy and execution. It enables employees to understand the relationship between their work and their company’s outcomes, inspiring purpose and engagement and making it possible to rally around a common language. This sets the stage for mission alignment and enterprise success.
Jenny Herald is the VP of Product Evangelism of Gtmhub.
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