What Great Companies Excel At

Posted: March 29, 2015 by Tim Metzner in Innovation, Leadership, Startup

Tim-MetznerWhile companies are incredibly diverse, it occurs to me that successful ones tend to have (at least) three things in common; clear vision, great culture and exceptional execution. I believe the more consistently a company excels in these areas, the more likely it is to become a lasting company that will thrive.

Vision

Your vision must be clear, focused, meaningful and well communicated to the team. Everyone from CEO to interns understand where the company is going and how they are to help.

Culture

Employees spend more time at work than they do with their families. People need to genuinely believe the company is working on things that matter, feel challenged and appreciated and enjoy the people they work with.

Execution

A clear vision and great culture isn’t enough; you also need to be executing at a high level. This doesn’t mean everyone is working 60+ hours a week (though your team should be willing and able to when needed), but it does mean people are focused, efficient and hard-working.

Note: there are real risks associated with execution that isn’t meaningful & focused. Busy doesn’t equal good. Your team needs to be focused on core/high-priority things.

Measuring It

One way to get a read on how you’re doing is to ask your team. Ask people at all levels in the company to rank how well you’re doing in all of these areas. Take the average scores, record them and optimize over time.

I believe measuring these three areas can help indicate where your company stands on two key indicators of success: growth and sustainability. To do this, create four quadrants and map where you would land showing how you’re doing against sustainability and growth.

THRIVE: Your company is growing (sustainably) and the team is happy.

ALIVE: People are enjoying the work they do, and generally happy, but the company isn’t going anywhere. Stay in this spot too long and you’ll be out of money before you know it.

DRIVE: The company is probably growing, but at a cost. Expect burnout or employee churn if not corrected.

DIVE: Your team isn’t happy and your company isn’t growing: right the ship quickly or start looking for a job.

What Does This Mean?

High on Vision, Culture & Execution

Congrats! You are in the THRIVE quadrant. The business is growing, the team is happy and you’re in a position to maintain momentum. Do whatever you can to stay here.

High on Execution and Culture

If you’ve got a great culture and a team executing, but lack a clear vision you’ll just be spinning your wheels. It’s like sitting in a rocking chair: it feels good, and you’re moving, but you’re not going anywhere. You’re probably about dead center on our chart above, with no prospects of moving up and to the right without change.

High on Vision and Culture

If you’re lacking execution, you’re dying (DIVE quadrant). If you stay in this state for any length of time, you’re company is bound to take a dive. A great vision and culture won’t overcome a lack of execution.

High on Vision and Execution

For driven people, having a great vision and high level of execution feels great. In fact, you probably won’t even feel like anything is wrong, in the short-term. If you’re not building a great culture, however, this won’t last. You’re likely in the DRIVE quadrant, which means it won’t be long before you either a) start losing great people due to burnout b) start to notice a drastic decrease in productivity (or both).

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