One of my principle tenets in life and business is that I copy what works. If I want marriage advice, I’m not going to follow Elizabeth Taylor’s example. Instead, I’ll consult a couple I’ve seen model a loving, committed, and decades-long partnership. For business advice, I turn to Standard Oil’s founder and tycoon, John D. Rockefeller. Mastering the Rockefeller Habitsis a staple in my library and its principles form the core of my own business's operating system. The book by Verne Harnish presents the case for putting together a one-page strategic plan containing the company’s strategy, vision, and mission in a simple format. Such a plan is important because it creates an unleavable culture by increasing communication and employee buy-in and providing accountability for each individual’s part in the company.
Ask any executive or department head what they’d like to see more of in their organization or team, and you’re very likely to hear one repeated theme: communication. Bob Youngentob, CEO of Washington, D.C.-area home builder EYA, says what so many of us know by experience: “Most companies suffer because of lack of communication.” We all know that better communication leads to better business with fewer misunderstandings and hurt egos along the way. But if it were an easy task to accomplish, we’d all be where we want to be already. Youngentob has been using the one-page strategic plan for 10 years and credits it with helping them accomplish that elusive task of improving communication in their organization. He says, “The one-page strategic plan is the most significant management tool [I’ve implemented] in 22 years.” With 250 awards under their belt (including “Best Place to Work,”) I’d have to say it’s working for Bob and his organization. When it comes to copying what works, that’s certainly a good start. It’s also working well for my company since we implemented the one-page strategy early this year. Our meetings are more productive. Our one-on-one coaching sessions are more focused. We are all more in tune with the company goals and have them at top of mind each day.
Not only do we now have company goals at top of mind each day, but each individual in our organization is more sold on the goals. Since we talk about them daily, employees understand what we’re pursuing and why. Most importantly, they understand their part in the bigger picture. Increased buy-in is priceless to an organization because when people know the why, they will do what they need to do to accomplish the what. Those with purpose are the most driven, successful, and happy people. Understanding their why and feeling connected to the bigger picture make a company and leader difficult to leave. As we stay connected to our personal why as well as to the company whys, we continually strive to be better. This connection helps create trust and community among the team and helps individuals and teams stay centered on the things that matter to us–the reasons we get out of bed and into our business suits each day.
Another priceless asset to an organization is built-in accountability. Companies often provide an orientation with all the information employees’ need, but lack daily reinforcement and accountability. When individuals in the organization are connected to their purpose (as above), they don’t have to be managed as much on day-to-day tasks because they are connected with the bigger goal. The one-page strategic plan leads to built-in accountability because intentions are clearly stated and the one page lends itself to follow up. When the mission and goals are accessible to everyone, employees feel like they are a part of the team. When proactive communication is the norm, employees feel appreciated and respected and that’s hard to walk away from, too. From the employees’ perspective, it's healthy when expectations are clear and they don’t feel like they’re walking on eggshells.
If you want be like Rockefeller and the award-winning homebuilder and if you want to create a culture nobody wants to leave, you’ll want to do what they’ve done: create a one-page strategic plan.
Does better communication top your list of goals to improve your business? Have you tried a one-page plan? What has your experience been? Whether you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your comments below.