While listening to a podcast recently, I picked up the most random bit of trivia: the word orientation comes from The Orient (aka the East). In olden times (before product management, before SaaS, before even the cloud), when a traveler was lost, they situated themselves by confirming they knew which way east was; to be “oriented” means to know where you are relative to your ultimate goal (The Orient).
to be “oriented” means to know where you are relative to your ultimate goal
This got me thinking about how much time teams (product teams, marketing teams, etc) spend on goal management. Defining the goal, instrumenting the metric, forecasting the target, reviewing results. And an organizational leader expends a lot of energy agonizing about progress - do the bets ladder up to the goal, is the pace of execution efficient, is the team focused on the highest-leverage work. It’s almost like we’ve convinced ourselves that optimizing the output of a team has the biggest impact on business outcomes.
But I think there’s even lower-hanging fruit that we tend to neglect: disoreinted teams. A disoriented team is one where there is no cohesive goal (doing a little bit of everything) or the focus is on the wrong goal (doesn’t connect to business strategy). As a leader, getting oriented teams to be more effective is definitely valuable, but getting disoriented teams re-oriented actually reduces a huge drag in the org.
So the next time you’re in a metrics review, beyond just confirming progress for the teams that are well-oriented, it might be worthwhile to spend some mindshare on teams that don’t know which way is east…
I’d love to hear from readers about their attempts at re-orienting teams and goals - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
I’ve written previously about South Star Metrics (metrics misuse) and also elaborated on the causes of Metrics Malfunction
Part of getting teams oriented is illuminating and implementing product strategy, and making sure you are meeting folks at their level of strategy sophistication
childish drawing / interpretation
Great post! This is pretty relevant to my org's current predicament.
Last year, we found ourselves doing a lot of things and our goals weren't pointed enough. We recently switched to an OKR model for our weekly reviews and now there's a sense of direction. The biggest change I've witnessed is through constant (weekly) reiteration of our "goal", all our departments are aligned in terms of the company mission.
In your experience, are there systematic practices to prevent disoriented teams in the first place?