How to Align Your People and Company Goals with the VOS²
When organizations choose to be more transparent about goals, work progress and company values, employees work harder.
Strategic alignment refers to an employees’ sense of understanding of your company’s mission, goals and culture. It goes beyond goals and is about getting everyone on the same page so they understand how they contribute and allows your people to feel empowered and to solve problems by always having the company culture and mission in mind when making decisions. Alignment helps to ensure that the company focuses efforts on the same important issues throughout the organization. A two-year study by Deloitte found that the biggest impact on employee engagement comes from “clearly defined goals that are written down and shared freely.” Most effective is when those goals are linked to the team’s broader mission. While OKRs (objectives and key results) are great for setting objectives, they don't take into account the company culture or align employees to doing mission-led meaningful work.
The VOS² alignment framework
The VOS² is a simple people alignment framework that supports alignment across your company, teams and individuals. The VOS² enables me as CEO to clarify what I’m doing, and then communicate it clearly to the entire company, keeping company mission and values as a focus while planning how key goals will be hit and the steps required to get there.
VOS² stands for: Vision, Values, Objectives, Obstacles, Strategy and Specific Metrics — 2Vs, 2Os and 2Ss. At my company Virti there is a company VOS² document which I set based on top-level company goals and then team and individual VOS² documents ,which waterfall down from the main company VOS². Each team lead and individual owns their VOS² and these are done as part of onboarding so new hires know exactly where they fit in and what they need to do. Elements of the VOS² are then added to project management software like Asana so we can track progress and teams reflect back on progress at the end of each quarter.
Alignment tools focus your people
When growing a team it is important that both you and your team are laser-focused on things that need to be done to achieve your goal and that these are successfully executed. The VOS² enables everyone to clarify what they are doing, and then communicate it clearly to the entire company. It also helps me break down the key steps needed to drive revenue, growth and achieve our mission. More than OKRs, the system allows for a reflective and thoughtful process that considers potential obstacles early and allows your people to act autonomously towards company goals by aligning to culture. Would you rather have your people mindlessly try to hit goals they don't understand the relevance of or would you rather they solved problems themselves to drive the company forward without micro-management?
The rule book tells people what they can or can’t do, but the culture of the organization can tell people what they should do. Or, as business philosopher Dov Seidman puts it, "What we choose to measure is a window into our values, and into what we value."
VOS² boils down to answering six questions. Together these answers create a framework for alignment and leadership:
- Vision — what do you want to achieve?
- Values — what’s important to you about this goal?
- Objectives — what will you deliver?
- Obstacles — what are the risks that might prevent you from being successful?
- Strategy — how will you achieve your objectives?
- Specific Metrics — how will you measure your objectives?
The six parts of the VOS² give us a detailed map of where we are going and an understanding of how to get there.
So you can see how these all flow back to the main company mission and vision, and help people to appreciate how their work is impacting the company and customers, providing clear and obvious meaning to every person's work.
Transparency and regular updates
Each VOS² is a living document that can be updated throughout the year. The problem with setting static goals is that the outcomes tend to lag behind and people can sometimes forget why they are doing something, neglecting the overall company mission.
As well as a company VOS², both individuals and teams across the company have their own VOS². Every single team and every single employee drafts their own VOS² and regularly reflects and reviews on it. To foster transparency, we publish every VOS² to the entire team. Anyone can look up anyone else's VOS² to see how each of us plans to contribute to our company’s growth.
This is because research shows that public goals are more likely to be attained than ones that are held private. In a survey of 1,000 workers in the U.S., 92% said they would be more motivated to reach their goals if colleagues could see their progress.
Our people have autonomy and take ownership of their VOS² so that they can intelligently focus on where they can bring most value towards the company mission and goals.
At the beginning of each quarter, team leads sit down with their team and reflect on VOS² progress from the previous quarter and review Specific Metrics for the next quarter. Reflecting on successful completion of a goal is critical: a Harvard Business School study found that learning from direct experience is more effective when coupled with reflection.
This is then integrated into regular team meetings and reviews as 10% of Fortune 500 companies have eliminated the annual review. Adobe discovered that annual reviews were costing the company 80,000 manager hours a year and in 2012 dropped them in favor of continuous performance management — this combines the quarterly goals and tracking with conversations, feedback and recognition to lift everyone’s achievement. Alignment helps to focus your people and reduce the need for static, annual reviews.