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How to create a 'Line of Sight'

line of sight for businesses
How effective are you at communicating your organization’s vision to employees? Do they understand how their “individual” roles contribute to the collective and successful realization of that vision?

In my previous post, 3 things CEOs must do to ensure effective collaboration, I wrote about how CEOs should encourage department heads to be influencers for a cohesive enterprise-wide strategy that is based on a clear ‘line of sight’ understanding beyond their respective departments. Today, I want to expand on the concept of ‘line of sight’ - what it is, why it is important and how you can make it a reality in your organization.

What is a Line of Sight?

Google the term “line of sight business” and you will discover a myriad of definitions saying the same thing.

Let me save you some time:

Line of sight starts with you as a leader motivating your employees towards a common goal by giving them a clear understanding of not only what that goal is, but also how their efforts make it a reality.

To break it down to its most rudimentary or basic definition, LOS is about effective internal communication. Seems simple enough, but simple is not often easy, nor is it often done well.

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According to a recent article from PR News, “60 percent of companies do not have a long-term internal communications strategy at all, and of the businesses that do, 12 percent do not measure the effectiveness of these communications.”

These numbers raise an important question: if you are not talking with your employees, then how do you know if they have a good understanding of the business's goals beyond the perfunctory mission statement plaque on the wall in your main lobby?

Why Line of Sight Matters to Your Employees

Shep Hyken, the bestselling author of books such as The Cult of the Customer and The Amazement Revolution, talks about communicating your company’s values through the level of service your employees provide to your customers.

In a guest post on Shep’s blog, his colleague Brooke Cade writes how the limited perspectives of “management opinion” and “customer feedback” may not necessarily provide a complete or accurate picture of your business. Cade then goes on to suggest that the frontline employees who interact with customers directly every day are an untapped resource for “valuable insights” that you may be missing.

Managers should focus on creating a line of sight that extends to the customer, via employees who interact with them day in and day out. Further, disconnected or incomplete line of communication has far-reaching implications beyond gaining needed intelligence. It results in a disengaged workforce that’s hard to retain.

A recent Inc article reported that 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven" company are engaged with the jobs they do, compared to just 23% of those who work in companies who aren't "purpose-driven". Think about what these numbers say.

On average, three-quarters of employees who have a clear understanding of how their jobs contribute to their company goals are actively engaged at work. Conversely, only a demoralizing one out of four employees are engaged at companies where the impact of their contributions is unclear.

If that isn’t enough of a wake-up call regarding the importance of effective and broadly inclusive communication within your company, consider these numbers from a global survey of LinkedIn users. Specifically, the finding that 73% of candidates want a career in which they feel that their job matters. A clear Line of Sight can confirm their value to the organization.

It is safe to say that when your employees understand your company’s goals, have a well-defined outline for how you will achieve them, and feel good about their role in making it happen; you are well on your way to success.

How to Build a Line of Sight

Like a fine wine, good advice seems to get better with age. A McKinsey & Company article from 2007 emphasizes the important role CEOs play in leading transformation efforts, and the same principles apply when a CEO looks to establish a LOS framework in their organization. The process includes communicating the significance of the goal, modeling the desired changes, building a strong team, and getting personally involved. In short, the process for establishing meaningful end-to-end communication not only begins with the CEO; it requires their active involvement.

Once you decide to take action to re-establish or strengthen the links of communication and collaboration, what are the next steps?

Having worked with several governmental organizations throughout North America, Russ Linden provides a good overview of some of the initial steps you can take for getting back online and on track here. In his words, the core elements of establishing your company’s LOS are:

  1. Articulating the vision’s impact on the customer
  2. Collaborating on the creation of flow charts to manage important processes and milestones
  3. Facilitating “short-term” departmental rotation of employees
  4. Taking a “balcony view” to ensure you maintain ongoing alignment with your goals.

Creating A Shared Sense of Accomplishment

Many years ago, a mentor told me that a majority of people come into work wanting to do a good job. He then added that their success as employees was dependent on his ability to enable the company vision to become their vision. The only way to make this happen, he added, is to include them in the planning process so that they feel that they have a part in shaping the company's future.

More recently, I remember sitting around the dinner table planning our next family vacation. Everyone had a say, and through open discussion, we were finally able to settle on a destination. In remembering the process, I realize that choosing where to go together was as much fun and rewarding as arriving at the destination itself - purely because every one of us had a say in the decision-making and was actively involved in making it a success.

As the leader of your company, the next and first move is now yours. Where will you and your team go?

Leadership, Communication