Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published July 24, 2020

How to Know What to do Next 

A couple weeks ago, we used the Eisenhower Matrix to separate the 'merely' Urgent from the important, and in my last video I shared how to decide what goes in to the 'important' bucket by using your OMG ('Overarching Medium-Term Goal').

In today's video, I show you how to set your OMG - and as a result, how to connect every action you take to the accomplishment of your overall mission, vision and values.

You'll be able to do this by using the single most powerful tool I have in my own personal productivity toolkit - The Alignment Pyramid:

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Running Time: 09' 56"

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Note: This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and understanding. There may still be grammatical and spelling errors,

Les McKeown: Hi, Les McKeown here, founder and CEO of Predictable Success. Now, as you think back on the year, what percentage of all of the actions that you took - that all of the people who you work with or for took - what percentage of all of those actions directly contributed toward attaining the goals that you set for this year? And what percentage were busy work, make-work - maybe good work, but not aligned with the goals that you wanted?

In other words, to what extent did everything you do this year contribute towards what you wanted to achieve? And what if next year, you could dramatically increase that percentage? If you could really lock every single action that everybody takes into the goals that you're looking to achieve for next year? Well, we have a great tool that I want to tell you, take you through today. It's a tool we use with all of our clients to help do exactly that - it's called the Alignment Pyramid, and here's how it works: 

The first thing that we're going to look at is what's happening at the every day, mundane level of individual actions in your organization. Now, whether there's 20,000 of you, 200 of you, 50 of you, 10 of you, one of you - every single person in your organization takes between 15 to 50 nontrivial actions every day.  

the Alignment Pyramid 1-1

Now, by non-trivial, I mean that in the context of whatever their role is, it's something that's meaningful. So if I'm a receptionist, do I look up and make eye contact with this person who's just come in? If I'm in a call center, do I close off this call within the period that I'm supposed to? If I'm the janitor, do I empty the trash cans diligently every evening? If I'm a sales manager, do I give this discount? So whatever the role is, every individual will take between 15 and 50 individual non-trivial  actions every day. 

Now, what that means is - you can do the math - if there are 10 of you in your organization, you're going to have an Action Cloud of somewhere between 150 and 500 individual actions every single day. Every single day! Do the math - how many of you are there? How many actions happen every day? This is what we call the Action Cloud.  

the Alignment Pyramid 2

And here's the kicker: that cloud of actions, that repetitive, day-in day-out, every single person taking between 15 to 50 non trivial actions, that's got to add up to something very, very important. And that's your overall mission, vision and values. In other words, if what you're doing every single day, doesn't somehow gets you closer to why you're doing this darn thing then it's really not worthwhile. It may be that you're performing an economic net positive by employing people, paying wages and salaries, and keeping, you know, cashflow going around. 

But if you're not achieving whatever it is that you want to achieve in the long-term - the reason you're doing this thing - then all of those actions are to naught. And the difficulty that we all grapple with every day, is that the gap between the every day mundane (sometimes, often mostly mundane) actions we take, and the grand heights of our mission, vision, and values. 

That's a big, big gap to bridge. And so what do we do? Well, typically we begin to break things down. We'll take our mission, vision, and values, and we'll set a series of goals, usually medium to long-term goals that we know if we hit them, then we're getting closer to our mission, vision, and values. 

the Alignment Pyramid 3

If we're running a for profit, those goals are usually around the top line, the bottom line, asset value, or return on investment. Those types of goals. If you're running a not for profit, they're much more likely to be around impact percentages - impacting what it is that youy're trying to achieve. 

Whatever the goals are, we set those overall goals as a way to judge if we're getting closer to our mission, vision, and values. But we've still got a gap between goals and actions. And we typically bridge those using further steps. First of all, we'll break our goals down into individual strategies - things we're going to specifically do, in order to achieve those goals.  

the Alignment Pyramid 4

So they may be investment strategies. They may be marketing strategies, sales strategies, infrastructure strategies - your mileage will vary - whatever your business is, whatever your organization does, you'll set some clear strategies which, if you achieve them, that means you'll achieve the overall goals. 

Now, even at that point, typically strategies need to be broken down into tactics, individual tactics that will help us achieve those strategies.  

the Alignment Pyramid 5

So for example, (I'm going to take something really, really simple, and you can translate it into your world) - If one of our goals is to get a revenue increase in a particular year, then a specific strategy may be to use paid advertising - to go online and use paid advertising to generate leads and revenue. And specific tactics under that strategy may be for example, identifying specific keywords that we're going to lock in on, write good content and drive traffic through paid advertising on those keywords. 

So we've got our mission, vision, and values, and we are bridging the gap to everyday actions by breaking the mission and values down into 

- some goals that will help us identify in the medium- to long-term if we're getting there 

- strategies that will achieve the goals, 

- tactics that will achieve the strategies. 

And now we've got a framework for our actions - a framework that ensures the answer to the question "Do our actions now get us where we're going?" is "Yes!"

Now, that's all well and good so far. And it's really important to get those layers all connected like a series of cogs - small cogs at the top, working all the way down to the very big cogs of mission, vision, and values. The difficulty is this that in the hurly burly of just getting stuff done, these connections can easily get lost. 

the Alignment Pyramid 6

As the year wears on, we get numb to the importance of the connections between these levels in the Alignment Pyramid. And by the way, the more detailed your strategic plan is -  if you've got a very detailed, worked-out strategic plan for next year, the more likely it is that that numbing effect will happen, because people have so many moving parts to track, they lose sight of what's currently important.]

So here's what we do with our clients. We establish something very, very important. It's something that sits right here in the intersection between goals and strategies. 

And it's something that we call an OMG. That's an Overarching Medium-Term Goal.  

the Alignment Pyramid omg

Now I mean something very specific by this. I mean something that you can achieve within six to 12 months. And so typically what this is - because it's something that can happen within a six to 12 month period, it's essentially a rallying cry to give you a pull-through for the whole of the year. It's something you can keep going back to, something you can evangelize. It's something that people can use as a touchstone to ask, are we getting closer to achieving our overarching medium term goal?

Does this replace all of the other moving parts, everything else in your strategies? No, it does not. It supplements them. And there's sometimes a little bit of hard work to be done here to identify clearly what your OMG is going to be. 

So I'll give you a personal example. Here's how, coming into this year, I established my OMG:

My OMG is to get all of my primary teaching - that's my teaching about the seven stages of the lifecycle and the four leadership styles (Visionary, Operator, Processor, Synergist) - to get all of that primary teaching on to a digital platform. Now, is that my whole strategic plan for this year? No, it is not, but it is my single OMG - which, if I do achieve it, will pull everything else through for the rest of the year. 

And it's really important that your OMG sits here at this level where it's intimately linked to your overall mission, vision, and values, and the bigger goals that you have over the long-term. 

I have some specific values for me, to do with the stage of life that I'm in. That means I want to move away from doing as much face to face consulting as I've done in the past, not getting rid it entirely, but doing more work online and digitally. So that's linked to my OMG. My OMG (move my primary teaching online) is intimately linked to one of my key values and overall goals (don't travel for business so much). 

Now, sometimes your OMG will simply be one of your actual strategies that you've developed. And for this year, for me, that is the case. My OMG is actually one of the specific strategies that I have developed. So think of it as a super strategy. Do I have other - many other - strategies that I'll be working on in this incoming year? Yes, I have, but my OMG is what pulls me through everything else. And that as a result gives transparency to every action that I'll be taking with the other people that I work with - the touchstone for every action that they take next year is going to be, does it help achieve our OMG? Knowing that if it does, all the other things that we're doing will come in behind that. 

So that's the Alignment Pyramid - I hope you find it helpful!

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