Radical Clarity

The Secret to Accountability, Growth & Transformation

We often hear executives talk about the need for more accountability. It’s born of frustration that their organization isn’t moving fast enough, doesn’t execute on the right things and isn’t adequately focused on key strategies. When leaders need transformative results, they are often frustrated that despite what appears to be a self evident need for new actions, people continue to do old behaviors, operate in old patterns and achieve old outcomes. Leaders think they’ve made the mission clear and their direct reports will simply extend the communication to the troops and the troops will do the right things.

For every executive calling for accountability, there is a team crying for clarity.

Unfortunately, the mission is anything but clear. While some people in the organization may resist the mission, most want to be on board but don’t know how to translate the mission and strategies into their work this week or how to make good trade offs on priorities. They don’t have enough information and clarity to act quickly and with confidence. Team members are clear on what they did before and understand how to go about that. They are far less clear about what to do going forward, what the real definition of success is and what specific new actions they need to take. In transformation situations, it’s often very hard for them to balance the known routine with the more nebulous new initiatives.

Focus Chart

Leaders are frustrated at their teams and feel handicapped in achieving their vision; team members feel they’re doing important work but not getting recognition for it. Part of the problem is that executives and middle managers themselves haven’t or can’t articulate one or more of three elements:

  1. What we want to achieve in the quarter
  2. Why it matters to the business
  3. How we will measure or quantify success this quarter

While most leaders have strategic themes and vision decks, many have not translated that into discrete quarter objectives and measurable results. To complicate matters, they use old communication paradigms to communicate new transformation visions. Episodic town halls, meetings and PowerPoint presentations at the beginning of the year are out of sync with our noisy real-time world and don’t enable transformation or growth — they leave everything to the imagination.

To achieve the desired growth and transformation, more fully engage people in your vision of the future and provide them with a prescriptive definition for their success in that future. This often means changing your management and communication model to be as agile, fast, innovative and transformative as you’d like your organization to be.

Engage people in your vision of the future and give them a prescriptive definition for their success in that future.

To Transform Results, Start with Your Management Model

While leaders want the organization to be more agile and accountable, they lack an agile model for driving clarity, accountability and transparency.

Today, many high velocity organizations use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to move the organization forward fast. OKRs are a powerful method of driving real clarity, a higher sense of purpose, and aligning near-term actions to desired near-term business outcomes.

OKRs work best when cascaded from the executive level in a series of rapid OKR development and alignment workshops.

OKR Flowchart

The hundreds of OKR and goal alignment workshops we’ve done in the last few months have been cathartic and transformative. Few if any teams know the specific results that are expected for a given quarter. Crucially, OKR alignment sessions flush out conflicts in understanding; each team leaves their session with complete clarity on the results they’re trying to achieve, why those results matter and the actions they’ll take to achieve them.

Everyone’s OKRs go into the Workboard app in the OKR session, so the new management model is institutionalized and actioned very quickly. This modern, mobile goal app brings people’s objectives and key results into line of sight, so actions and decisions align. Progress is transparent, and as people achieve visible results, their motivation increases. Managers and leaders have a firm basis to drive focus and accountability, identify scale and people issues more quickly and course correct in real time.

OKRs help hyper-growth companies like Google achieve phenomenal success. Learn how:

Goal Engagement Drives Achievement

Our clients drive better results when employees have real-time, continuous transparency on their OKRs and the actions each person owns. When objectives and target results are constantly visible, they inform decisions every day. In a large study, Deloitte found that monthly goal focus vaulted companies to the top 10% of performance in their peer group.

Engagement Heatmap

Among our clients, there is a clear, compelling pattern of daily and weekly goal focus and a direct correlation to higher results. In fact, people cluster into two distinct groups: The majority are highly focused and achieve results defined as success for a given quarter. A minority fails to focus or achieve the defined results.

Because we can correlate goal engagement with goal results, we can quickly surface this data to leaders throughout the quarter. They in turn can coach unfocused people more proactively to immediately impact their quarter results; persistent issues are easy to spot and address with facts.

This real-time approach creates tremendous advantage for executives who traditionally used quarterly business reviews (QBRs) or monthly operations reviews (MORs) to discover that their teams had drifted off course or less valuable competing efforts had undermined the team. Eliminating MoRs and QBRs frees people from drudge reporting work – they are happier and have more capacity for change and growth. OKRs and Workboard are more social and more fun, and that’s particularly important for Millennial employees and in challenging transformations.

OKRs help hyper-growth companies like Google achieve phenomenal success. Learn how:

Engage People in Transformation

When employees lack clarity on how success is defined, morale and motivation suffer while anxiety runs high. People must guess what their boss and organization really want, and only the arrogant assume they read the boss’s mind. In large organizations, good people can lose a whole year being “responsive” and working hard yet fail to create value for the organization. Frustrated managers give poor performance grades at the end of the year, when little can be done to correct course. Executives parachute in to rescue off-course teams, which adds to employee anxiety or worse, creates paralysis. Consider a change in tactic: when you’re tempted to demand accountability, hold yourself accountable for driving radical clarity and providing tools that enable people to engage transparently on goals. Ultimately, capacity and good people are lost because desired results were unclear or forgotten in the daily noise.

Employees want radical clarity on how to be successful – it’s the centerpiece of employee engagement.

Long-range career planning for employees is important, but a long-range career is comprised of a series of short-range successes — for you and your people. Make it easy for your team to do high value work and be wildly successful now, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve this quarter and this year.

This article is part of the Brilliant Leadership Series.

Achieve more with radical clarity