Saturday, September 11, 2010

What's Possible When Everyone Shares a Collective Vision?

How in sync is your team? Is everyone moving together smoothly in the same direction? Or does it feel more like a constant tug-of-war, push-n-pull, each tripping over the other? Do you experience conflicting goals, conflicting agendas, constantly changing priorities, flavors of the day, feeling stretched and confused?

In my experience, businesses, specially business partners and families who are in business together, they start off with a fairly a clear focus, direction and desired outcome. As times goes on however, individuals begin to drift apart. Each focusing on their own thing, they are busy and less and less communication. In the absence of on-going communications about vision, desired outcomes, planning, etc. misunderstandings, friction, breakdowns, inefficiencies begin to take place, all negatively impacting overall performance.

If you like to find out what the situation is in your organization, here's a simple test. Results will show you how well aligned is your team, to what degree they share a collective vision, and if they are all working towards the same desired outcome.

Have one person, preferably someone from the outside who is neutral and objective, and someone who has nothing to gain or loose by the findings, start interviewing, individually, key members of your team. Have this person, who should be good in asking questions, listening and probing, ask each interviewee the following 7 questions:

1. What business is your company in and why does it exist (purpose)?
2. What does your company sell?
3. Who are your target customers?
4. Who are your top 10 clients?
5. Why do they do business with your company?
6. What do your clients most appreciate about doing business with your company?
7. How is success defined and measured at your company?

Of course, before diving into these questions listed above, the interviewer will have to first set the stage as well as warm up the conversation by asking couple of other questions, to get the conversation flowing and putting the interviewee at ease.

When asking these 7 questions, go in depth. For example, for the question "who are your target customers?" don't just accept for example, our customers are associations. Probe and dig deeper. Never settle for the first response. Ask each interviewee to share for example, what does the "optimum" customer "look" like, e.g. approximate age, gender, title, size and type of organization, location, and so on.

As a suggestion, start these interviews first with your leadership team. Often misalignment starts right there. If you find they aren't aligned, then what do you think are the chances rest of your team members being aligned and moving in the same direction? And if they aren't, what impact is that having on the organization? Then imagine, if they were all aligned and shared a collective vision, working together towards the same destination, what would be possible?

Go ahead, give this simple yet powerful exercise a try and see what you find out. I can guarantee you'll be glad to have done this.

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