Sound Bites

Assess Your Growth Drag

with Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO

Deidre Paknad

Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO: There are three internal causes of growth drag. The first is you have slow alignment and a fast market. The second cause is you've got the leadership team focused on outcomes, but the organization is focused on output. And the third cause of internal growth drag is limited laborious accountability.

When you look at alignment, the thing to focus in on is if nobody knows the growth plan, nobody understands the strategic priorities, you can't possibly achieve them fast.

MIT Sloan graph

This data from MIT Sloan really shows or surfaces the decay rate of understanding of the strategic priorities in most organizations. Yours probably looks a lot like these 1200 companies. And what it shows is as you go down the org chart, fewer and fewer people understand what it is you're trying to accomplish and how they contribute. That's a fundamental capacity loss that slows down your ability to achieve your plans.

If nobody understands the strategic priorities, you can't possibly achieve them fast.

The second cause is the gap between the outcomes you want and the output mindset of the organization. So you may want to drive a strategy, for example, to enter new markets and sell to new buyers. And that gets translated through the organization into a set of to-dos and tasks. And those to-dos and tasks may or may not drive the outcomes you need.

As a simple example, it gets translated into "The marketing team needs to do sales training and publish a playbook." And as long as the playbook got done on Tuesday, boom! Victory for the marketing team. But if the sellers weren't actually able to sell to that new customer and enter the new market because the playbook wasn't any good, you aren't going to achieve that strategic priority this quarter. And everybody's going to wonder why. If you want people to be able to actually drive the outcomes, you need a new way of talking about outcomes in the organization that brings those to clarity for everybody down the line.

If you manage slow, you grow slow.

And then the last cause of internal growth drag is how hard it is to drive accountability. And of course if you manage slow, you grow slow. What's required to manage fast is, first and foremost, data on what it is the team is trying to accomplish and what the gap is to that. And they need to look at that data every week so that they're focusing their time on Monday — and every Monday — on those things that drive the most value and are most aligned with the strategic priorities. Now, if they don't know what the strategic priorities are, or they only look at those once a month in the monthly ops review, or worse yet, they only look at them in the quarterly business review, you really aren't going to achieve the outcomes you want at the speed that you want. So to make the transition to fast accountability, everybody needs data line of sight. Where are they going? How close are they now? What are the risks in their way, and what's the plan of action to get those outcomes quickly?

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