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Key Insights

  • Unclear organizational purpose: Less than half of U.S. employees (41%) strongly agree that they know what their organization stands for.

  • Broken decision-making: Very few managers -- just 14% -- strongly agree they are satisfied with the speed of decision-making at their organization.

  • Insufficient direction: Only 22% of employees feel that leaders have a clear direction for the organization.

  • Lack of communication: Just 13% of U.S. employees strongly agree that their organization's leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.

  • So, it's not safe to assume alignment to purpose exists. Nor is it safe to think communicating purpose is sufficient: 42% of managers say they have multiple competing priorities, a Gallup survey shows.

    • So, handled badly, even minor misalignment can give cover to competing priorities and pet projects (and sometimes, separate definitions of compliance).

    • Most executive teams would fare better by sticking to the basics and developing a shared understanding of purpose.

  • Align goals across all levels

    • With alignment around purpose and insight from the entire organization, leaders' final step is closing the well-known "strategy-execution" gap.

    • One simple, effective approach is the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework that Gallup often uses with clients. Pioneered by Intel and Google and used by high-performing organizations that have evolved from an MBO and BSC perspective, the OKR framework focuses leaders on the value of the work rather than the process of it. OKRs are usually:

      • grounded in objectives that are qualitative, ambitious and directly tied to purpose -- KPIs are typically single points and quantitative

      • targeted at specific goals that can be objectively scored on a 0-10 or 0-100 scale

      • public and transparent -- everyone in the organization can review them and see progress

    • That last point is important. Employees need line of sight to leaders' objectives, strategies and future directions because they need to feel like part of the strategy. Inclusion is empowerment, and empowerment is activation. Activation is the difference between a highly effective strategy that leads a company forward -- and a piece of paper.

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