How to Create Alignment and Clarity Across Your Entire Organization
On paper, the 2004 U.S. Men's Basketball Team was one of the most successful teams to ever play the game.
The coach was Larry Brown, the only basketball coach ever to win both an NCAA Championship and an NBA Championship. The team was stacked with some of the greatest superstars in basketball history like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Tim Duncan. The United States had also won the Gold Medal in basketball in the previous three straight Olympic Games and were heavily favored to win again in 2004.
Yet, they lost their opening game to Puerto Rico.
They ended up losing three games in total—the most ever lost by a US Men’s Basketball Team—and went home with the bronze medal, coming in behind Argentina and Italy.
So, how could a team consisting of some of the greatest superstars in basketball history not win the Gold Medal?
They weren't aligned on how to collaborate effectively as a team.
Alignment: The key to everything
One of the hardest parts about running a business is getting your team aligned. Just like the coach of a sports team, your number one job as a business owner is to make sure your team is putting their efforts in the right place and moving in the same direction.
Even if you have a team full of superstars, you're not going to get far if they're not aligned on the best ways to operate as a team.
For that to happen, everyone needs to be on the same page. Everyone, from employees to managers to executives, needs to understand what they're doing on a daily basis while also seeing the bigger picture. Just like a sports team, everyone needs to understand their role and how they can best contribute to the overall team effort.
There needs to be a system in place that provides clarity and alignment at every level of the organization.
Seeing the forest and the trees
Gaining clarity in your business and aligning your team really comes down to two separate pieces. We all know the phrase "don't lose sight of the forest for the trees," and in business, you need to see both.
Your team needs to understand, at an individual level, what they're supposed to be doing on a daily basis. That could be recurring work, ad-hoc tasks, or managing their team of direct reports. Everyone needs to be focusing on the right work at the right time to ensure the business moves forward at a consistent pace.
But clarity around day-to-day responsibilities isn’t enough. The people who work for your organization also need to understand how their work contributes to the bigger picture . They need to be aligned with the mission of your organization and how your company objectives achieve it.
Most importantly, every single person on your team needs to be able to see how the work they’re doing every day—even in an entry-level position—is integral to the success of the company. How will their daily workload eventually help to achieve something bigger? Every single employee should have clarity and confidence as to how the level of effort they put in every day can have a positive impact on their own future earnings and trajectory as well as the future of the company as a whole.
When everyone at an organization has access to an unobstructed view of both the forest and the trees, amazing things can happen.
The Pyramid of Clarity
So, how do you integrate a system into your organization that provides clarity and alignment at every level? The right solution may vary based on the needs and structure of your company, but there are great tools already out there that can help you get started.
Asana, the creators of one of the most powerful work management tools for modern teams, developed what they call the The Pyramid of Clarity to solve this exact problem. It's a concept that many organizations use in one shape or another, whether they refer to it as a pyramid or not.
At Leverage, we've developed our own Pyramid of Clarity that is loosely based on Asana's version, but better suits our needs and those of our clients. It's a simple way to get aligned from the top down, so everyone is clear on where they fit into the organization and how their work contributes to long-term goals.
And best of all, it works perfectly with Asana itself—you can create your own Pyramid of Clarity, then use Asana to implement it with your team.
How it works
On the left side of the pyramid are the tangible items that dictate what people are working on and how they focus their efforts.
Let’s call the top of the pyramid Level 1.
Level 1: Company Mission
This is your pinnacle of success—the long-term aspirations of the entire organization. It's the impact you want to have on the world and the highest level of achievement you can imagine. The mission is owned and established by your executive team.
Level 2: Company Objectives
These are the big goals that will allow you to accomplish your mission. If you achieve all of your objectives, you'll ultimately accomplish your mission. There are generally both company-wide objectives (owned by the executive team) and more specific objectives that are owned by managers and individuals. Just like the rest of the pyramid, achieving smaller objectives helps to achieve the larger company-wide objectives.
Level 3: Project Portfolios
In Asana, the definition of a portfolio is a grouping of projects that need to be completed in order to meet a company objective. Portfolios are owned by executives and managers. Executives are typically looking at large portfolios (like all company-wide projects in Q1) while managers use portfolios to keep track of their team's specific projects.
Level 4: Projects & Processes
Successful management and execution of projects and processes is at the core of any organization. Completing one-time projects as well as recurring processes on time and in entirety will ultimately determine whether goals are met and the mission is achieved. These are owned by team leads.
Level 5: Tasks
These are the individual, bite-sized pieces of work that make up projects, and this is where most people at your company dedicate the majority of their time and attention on a daily basis. Tasks might seem small but in reality they're the largest section of the pyramid and create the foundation on which it stands. Their importance cannot be understated, and the beauty of the Pyramid of Clarity is that it shows exactly how a small task contributes to a much larger company goal. Tasks are owned by employees.
Why it works
When we work with clients at Leverage, the Pyramid of Clarity is one of the first things we address. Getting clear on all the components of this pyramid can take some time up front, but it will save massive amounts of time and effort in the long run while also improving the morale of your team.
When people can see how their work contributes to larger goals, it gives the tasks that would otherwise seem menial and unnecessary a sense of purpose and they become a building block to something bigger.
Another benefit is that this larger context empowers your employees to make informed contributions and suggestions from their unique vantage point that may enable you to uplevel your workflow and achieve your company goals faster. For example, when every employee understands the bigger goals, they may realize that something marked as a high priority should actually be a lower priority, or they may identify part of a process that is no longer relevant.
However, in order for this to work, your company must also cultivate a company culture that places value on active participation and feedback from employees at all levels.
It all comes back to alignment, clarity, and ownership. No matter where you're at in the pyramid, you're aligned on the bigger picture while also gaining clarity on what matters most in your individual role.
Building the pyramid
Putting this into action can be challenging but it's not impossible. The first step is to meet with your team and think conceptually. Visualize your pyramid. Start from the top and work your way down to develop your mission, objectives, and portfolios. From there, the projects and tasks will become clear.
Getting the actual work done to complete all of the tasks and projects required to achieve your goals? That's a bit more nuanced.
Unsurprisingly, Asana is the perfect tool for making this happen. When used properly, Asana allows teams to plan, manage, and complete all of the projects required to achieve their goals. It also provides the visibility and transparency teams need in order to realize the full benefits of the Pyramid of Clarity.
Whether you're just getting started in Asana or haven't even installed it, our Asana Foundations Training is the perfect place to start. In just three months, we'll show you and your team how to set up and use Asana in the best ways for your business—so you can not only implement the pyramid of clarity, but efficiently complete all the work required to achieve your goals.
Click here to learn more about our Asana Foundations Training and sign up today.