article | August 17, 2016
Your Guide to Connecting Strategy with Execution
SBI recently spoke with Kermit Randa, the CEO of PeopleAdmin, a software company that helps higher education streamline their hiring process. The topic of conversation was connecting strategy to execution. As CEO, Kermit is responsible for cascading objectives from the very top to the front lines to ensure their revenue growth objectives are met.
We began the conversation by discussing the hierarchy of objectives. “Our first stop is always to put it in the context of our core values,” explains Kermit. Because they are a software company, they really are about the people. They rely on smart, passionate employees and therefore, must get the values right. Additionally, Kermit is always thinking about the customer. What do they need to do to better serve their customers? They validate these needs through extensive outreach. This feedback helps them set a guiding principle for the year. As a result, they have a very tactical set of outcomes in the form of metrics that they track, right down to the individual contributor.
As Kermit cascades his hierarchy of objectives throughout the entire organization, how does he take executive level KPIs, and make them relevant to all employees? At PeopleAdmin they have a process to ensure the main goals of the company are translated to the individual level. “Everyone has about 5 to 7 goals each quarter in our strategic priorities, and the desired outcomes determine our MBOs, our goals,” explains Kermit. Their MBO program ensures that everyone can share in the success, and that they can move towards the company’s overall objectives.
Another key aspect of successfully connecting the corporate strategy with execution is communication. What is the cadence that Kermit and his team follow?
It’s important for his team to be able to understand, at any moment, how they are aligned across the organization. They have a corporate game plan that defines the rhythm of the business. “Think of it as a calendar of major milestones through the year, and our focus for each quarter,” explains Kermit. First they think about their corporate strategy, and the product strategy. Are these two strategies in alignment? Next, they consider how to develop their focus and the financial and operating plan. And after that comes the people. “We think about the strategy, moving over to the operation plan, then what people need to be able to go and execute, and finally we figure out how we’re doing and move forward,” explains Kermit.
They also have weekly cross-departmental meetings for the director levels, and daily check-ins for Kermit and his staff. There is a tremendous amount of focus on communication in order to keep moving forward in their pursuit of their objectives.
Another one of the keys to success is ensuring strategic alignment across the organization. How does Kermit ensure the functional leaders are not operating in silos, and instead remain in alignment? Their overall game plan, their MBOs and their meeting cadence are all part of the process. But for Kermit, it all boils down to communication. At PeopleAdmin there is a lot of cross-functional and interdepartmental collaboration. In fact, his favorite type of meeting is one that he does not have to attend. Instead, he trusts his team to hammer through the issues, and solve the problems they are experiencing together.
Additionally, their MBOs influence their ability to remain in strategic alignment. About half of these are cross functional. This ensures that the teams are working together and communicating effectively.
We wrapped up the conversation by asking Kermit for three key pieces of advice. First, he recommends having a clear set of company core values. Make sure these values are driving the desired behavior. Next, it’s all about alignment. Each employee needs to understand what they’re doing and how it aligns with the company goals and ultimately, customer success. And finally, Kermit recommends being data driven. Data should drive the day to day decision making, and the company’s overall strategy.