20 Dec The Whimsical “Why”: 4 Benefits of having a Transparent Strategy
Knowing ‘why’ has become an increasingly important motivator for my gen X and gen Y counterparts. So why do organizations still choose to leave their employees in the dark? This article will discuss 4 benefits of creating a strategy that is transparent throughout your organization.
From my experience working in large organizations, the ‘why’ is not always relatable to individuals goals and performance targets. In other words, it is not always clear how one fits into the complex systems that makes up a multinational company. Whether this is done intentionally to create top-heavy authority or solely because of bad communication, an unclear strategy can hinder productivity and project results, and create poor morale through the chain of command.
Let’s start by talking about motivation.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
Imagine if multinational companies chose a flat organizational structure. There would only be one management layer between executives and bottom-level employees. This is quite rare. Instead, strategy normally cascades from the top down in an organization, starting with executives discussing performance targets tailored to the new strategy with upper-management. Management receives a goal-set and cascades this goal further down to employees. By the time employees receive their targets, the goal-set is stripped of any context – or the ‘why’. This results in extrinsically motivated people. Nowadays, employee motivation depends largely on ego-centric motivation, which says “I want to collect more skills, advance myself as a person, and receive recognition from my surroundings by advancing in this career and earning more money” (extrinsic motivators).
An example of an intrinsic motivator would be knowing that the company tends to your needs or aligns with your values. Modern day companies, such as Google, have been relying on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Providing employees with great perks creates goodwill with employees, which motivates the employee to contribute to the overall goal. More importantly, these companies have fostered a culture of experimentation and innovation that often align with the values of the most talented employees.
Why “why” makes sense
- Employees know how a strategic change impacts their goals and responsibilities. (top-down)
- Employees will respond more flexibly and efficiently to changes in strategy (less resistance to change). (top-down)
- Employees know how they impact the big picture of their team and organization. (bottom-up)
- Employees can better help their managers achieve their respective goals. (bottom-up)
One of the reasons I like working for a startup is that goals are crystal clear: we need to get x paying customers or x users on our platform to qualify for X investment funding. Also the impact that every employee has is clear. There is simply no way around it. It’s either yes or no. This is not always the case in large organizations, and as an employee it is easy to lose track of how you fit the big picture.
Just like the onset of the “why” in marketing (Simon Sinek), the ‘why’ in employee motivation is becoming increasingly important. This requires leadership transparency and a crystal clear connection between individual goals, management goals, and strategy. This ties directly to “sense of belonging” in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – knowing your place in the organization by knowing how you contribute to the big picture.
One of the main problems here is lack of communication. The free, undistorted flow of information from the top to the bottom of the organization allows people to align their values and creates “warm” or intrinsic motivation.
Becoming transparent is a great trust-building exercise and alleviates the relationships within your team and organization. In my experience, constructing an organizational “tree” that cascades strategy down to individual employee goals is the best method to achieve this, along with rigorous tracking and measurement of progress throughout all layers of the organization.
This is not simply a matter of breaking a big goal into small pieces, but a negation with lower-level management and employees on the attainability of each goal. Each discussion should identify the resources necessary to achieve that goal, remove any roadblocks and align lower-level initiatives with strategic goals.