strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 53

which may well have hindered employees), it is evident that Steve Jobs had not only the necessary clarity and focus but also the ability to communicate it very crisply, and often very sharply, down the line so that everyone associated with the company clearly understood what was expected of him or her. Aligning clarity of purpose and direction cannot be left to chance or to the variable strengths of differ-ent leaders down the chain. An organizational process is needed to drive alignment consistently throughout the organization. The militaries of the world use a process called “commander’s intent” to ensure clarity of purpose and direction. A commander briefing his or her captains and lieutenants might say, “We need to take that hill and wait for reinforcements.” With that single state-ment of intent, the commander has made the purpose and direction clear. After the subordinate officers have had time for initial planning, the commander reconvenes them and asks each one to share the statements being communi-cated to the troops and the broad outlines of their plans. These follow-up meetings create a degree of alignment that does not exist in many corporations. We have worked with organizations to help trans-late commander’s intent into leader’s intent , a more pal-atable term for civilian organizations. Leader’s intent is a process for verifying alignment of purpose and sup-porting implementation plans at each handoff in the path from strategy to results. Because leader’s intent provides clarity of purpose and direction, teams no longer waste time second-guess-ing unclear directives. They can spend their time and energy focusing on creative solutions to achieve results. Clarity removes the hindering effects of uncertainty. Although leader’s intent should start at the top and become a common practice, midlevel managers can seek clarity of purpose and direction from those above and around them in the hierarchy. Managers should ask for a few minutes to present the purpose and direction they are sharing with their teams and the broad outlines of their implementation plans. During these meetings, they can ask for feedback on their alignment with their own leaders. This ap-proach is more productive than asking leaders to restate their unclear or unspoken statement of purpose and direction. Saying No features title feature organizations of the article & people 53 The third step on the ladder of escaping the hindrance trap is accounting for the organizational capacity re-quired along the pathways from intent to results. A good starting point is to decide which initiatives have outlived their usefulness and should be eliminated to make room for new programs. Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges make a strong argument for this approach in their April 2010 Harvard Business Review article “The Acceleration Trap.” Their notion of starting an initiative to kill initiatives resonates strongly. Far too many “walking dead” projects clog capacity in most organizations. Once superfluous activities have been cut, leaders can allocate resources according to the priority of the re-maining projects and initiatives. This requires the appli-cation of a consistent set of attractiveness criteria. Shape A/S, a highly successful Danish company that develops mobile applications, applies four criteria to all potential projects:

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