Having worked with both startups and big companies for over 25 years, I've seen leaders and teams become so enamored by their "disruptive" future visions they neglect the quick wins needed to keep things going. I've also seen people so focused on implementation that they lose sight of the bigger strategy and opportunity.
Real innovation happens when you have both vision and results. Once you have a vision, revisiting and updating it should consume no more than a day or so each year (unless you're a true startup that's pivoting every other minute). The rest of your time, focus on making your vision a reality.
So how do you do it?
Get everyone focused on the specific objectives and measurable results needed right now. This doesn't mean you neglect the end goal. It just means you need to sprint from short-term result to short-term result--all while keeping the big picture in mind. Every short-term activity should build upon the last and contain a clear line of sight to what it's leading to.
There are many models out there. One of the best is Objectives and Key Results, also known as OKRs.
An OKR is made up of an "Objective," which is a clearly defined strategy to achieve something, and one or more "Key Results" that are specific measures used to track the attainment of that given objective. Objectives are descriptions of the organization's strategic goals and should be concise, motivating, and challenging. Key Results are the metrics that indicate quantifiable progress like number of new customers, web traffic, conversion rates, revenue, or other measures.
Here's a template that you can download and modify to build out your own set of OKRs. This one is based on an annual plan and includes the following sections:
- Objective - What is the strategic goal you want to achieve?
- Accountable - Who "owns" this objective?
- Key Results - What is your annual best-case and realistic quantifiable goal?
- Quarterly Targets - How will your metrics be delivered over time?
- Cascading Key Results - What specific things need to be done, created or achieved to attain the Key Results?
- Owners - Who will lead the implementation of each cascading key result?
- Performance Metrics - How will you measure the success of each cascading key result?
In full disclosure, the template comes from upBOARD, the company I co-founded that's aiming to create the world's largest library of business process apps. Modify the template to suit your specific organization's needs, like adjusting the time frame so instead of focusing on annual objectives it becomes a quarterly activity.
Also, any Key Result can be become an Objective for another person or team, essentially "cascading" the approach across your departments and organization to foster alignment and collaboration. That's how real innovation happens.