By their very nature, entrepreneurs are visionaries, with a future-looking perspective that’s often ahead of its time. Their fundamental motivation is to build a solution or technology that will forever change the status quo and make us wonder how we ever got along without it.
Yet, even while they labor tirelessly to implement this grand vision, they must also remain grounded in getting day-to-day work done–managing the business, exploring partnerships, marketing, dealing with personnel and courting investors.
Achieving this balance can be exhausting, frustrating and emotionally draining. Even with hundreds of applications, tools, task managers, platforms, and other solutions to help organize work and improve productivity, most of these just add to the daily chaos and digital distraction that gets in the way of real, forward progress.
Entrepreneurs remain overwhelmed, overworked and stressed–many to the point of physical exhaustion.
The problem is that none of these so-called solutions addresses the fundamental void in both startups and established businesses today: lack of visibility. Let’s be clear that business visibility has nothing to do with Big Brother watching over employees’ shoulders, surveillance cameras in the stairwells, or monitoring employees’ use of the Internet during the workday.
Instead, real business visibility means knowing how, when, and why business tasks are–or should be–done. It involves everyone in the organization understanding the ultimate goal, giving the entrepreneur the ability to steer the entire team toward that strategic vision and prioritizing new work and new opportunities based on that shared core mission.
Gaining visibility across the organization is crucial for enabling entrepreneurs to transition from just getting work done to aligning work with the overall business strategy. In fact, it’s vital for the survival of the company, and it goes far beyond what software you have installed.
Despite all of the latest and greatest tools at their disposal, according to Harvard Business School’s Robert S. Kaplan, nine out of 10 companies still fail to execute their strategic vision–a fundamental weakness that could lead to their eventual demise. Effective, progressive growth requires strategic alignment, which can only be achieved through improved visibility.
Achieving better visibility also adds an element of accountability across the organization that enables effective delegation, which is also critical for sustainability. Most startups are born intent on growing beyond the core founding team. As that happens, continuous alignment to the strategic objectives will ensure that others know how and why to perform tasks without depending on specific individuals for guidance, ultimately freeing the entrepreneur from the shackles of granular decision making and the risk of burnout.
Visibility is critical for empowering your team to operate more nimbly and with greater responsiveness and agility. While startup culture often frowns upon the idea of structure because it feels too rigid, corporate, or bureaucratic, establishing a strong strategic foundation actually affords a higher level of freedom and flexibility within the organization.
With full alignment on the business strategy, the entire team can improve execution and maintain focus as the organization grows, enabling managers to “continuously plan and monitor (achievement of) strategic, operational, and tactical goals.”
With the confidence of knowing everyone is on the same page, managers can make faster, smarter decisions without having to always relying on the founder’s sign off.
In addition to strategic advantages, achieving better organizational visibility also offers a number of tactical advantages. With improved transparency comes the ability to identify areas of improvement. Rather than just repeating the same processes with the same lackluster results, identifying “problem” areas enables your team to develop effective strategies to overcome them.
Visibility also provides a structure that supports rapid growth. Many companies with big plans to take the world by storm often quickly outgrow their capacity and fizzle out before fully living up to their potential. Gaining visibility into processes can help you establish a framework that expands rapidly to quickly scale up on demand, rather than just flying by the seat of your pants and hoping you can ramp up when the time comes.
From a resource planning perspective, visibility enables more strategic hiring and the ability to maximize existing resources. By better understanding their organization’s systems, performance and deficits, cost-conscious entrepreneurs can optimize current personnel resources to maximize existing investment and hire exactly the right additional talent as needed.
Finally, effective visibility impresses investors. With hard data on company performance, it’s much easier to demonstrate actual and potential success to investors with forecasts based on known conditions instead of speculation. Investors love to see that their money is riding on the future of a company that knows exactly where it’s headed.
One of the biggest challenges of launching and growing any business is that it’s impossible to know what you don’t know–whether it’s internal performance or external market and competitive forces. Establishing processes, protocols and systems that give you clarity and visibility across the enterprise can reveal both opportunities for growth and trouble spots for improvement. This future-oriented perspective will provide your leadership with a strong foundation upon which to continuously improve.
—Eric Morgan is the CEO of AtTask, a cloud-based enterprise work management solution that provides a central place to manage and control the chaos of work, improving productivity by eliminating wasted time dealing with fragmented tools and processes.