As the leader of a software development team, it’s your responsibility to see the big picture — and that picture isn’t complete until your product development strategy aligns with your organization’s business goals.
In this post, we’ll cover what goal alignment is and three key strategies you can use to implement it in your organization.
What Does Goal Alignment Actually Mean?
In terms of software development, goal alignment refers to how well a company’s product development strategy and goals line up with its vision, mission and values. Goal alignment helps ensure that teams are building products based on what customers need rather than on their own biases or ideologies.
A business goal is a certain configuration of the future, like hitting a specific number in revenue or earning a specific market share. It paints a picture of the future of your organization.
But that picture won’t make sense to the rest of your team if they don’t understand why you’re pursuing this goal.
Everyone on your team, from the highest-level senior executives to the frontline engineers, needs to have a complete understanding of your organization’s “why.” The team must understand the reason they’re doing something — and collectively agree that the reason is valid.
When an employee doesn’t see the full context of your goals, you’ll start to find micro-misalignments in their work. This will happen even if they’ve fully bought in to a goal without question. In the course of doing their job, at some point that employee will need to make a decision between Option A and Option B. They’re going to make the decision that makes sense to them based on the information they have.
If they don’t see the full picture, this decision may not align with the organization’s mission as a whole. And over time, these choices accumulate. Employees can waste a lot of time and money chasing the wrong goals when they lack the full context of the company’s mission.
For example, say your organization wants to reach that NPS score because you want to attract junior people. You want them because they’re cheaper, easier to train and historically produce better results. But if your marketing manager doesn’t know that, they’ll likely just drive for the fastest NPS out there, which will result in a lot of wasted money.
When everyone understands the context, even their small decisions will support the company’s goals. The deeper you can go in communicating the context of your goals, the more aligned your employees will be.
So as you implement the following three keys, make sure your team has total awareness and context regarding your organization’s mission, vision and values.
3 Keys To Successfully Align Your Product Development Strategy & Business Goals
Now that you’ve seen why goal aligning is important, let’s look at three ways you can create that alignment throughout your organization.
Key 1: Create Alignment, Transparency & Structure With Themes
To create that alignment within your company culture, be sure your goals are both transparent and well-structured.
While there are multiple ways to structure goals — like SMART goals, OKRs, Rocks, etc. — you can back up these goals with an overall theme that encompasses multiple projects. The theme establishes context for different product groups to fully grasp what everyone is collectively working toward.
Whether it’s improved user experience or increased conversions, working toward a common theme aligns your team even when they’re working on individual projects and tasks.
Themes can change every month or every quarter. Just make sure to communicate them clearly across your organization so everyone knows where to invest their effort.
Once you establish a common theme, you can start asking what that theme looks like practically for individual groups. You’ll be able to set more structured goals tailored to each functional team that tie into the current overall theme.
These clear parameters help establish a chain of context that keeps your organization aligned and provides an effective framework to track progress.
Key 2: Empower Your Team To Take Ownership
You can’t be the only one in your organization keeping the theme and goals aligned. That’s too big of a job for a single person. You need your entire team to be proactively on board.
It’s crucial to empower individual groups to look at every goal, process or element of a roadmap in an introspective way. They should be able to ask themselves if each element really contributes to achieving the overall objective, and have enough personal authority to come to you or their manager if it doesn’t.
Foster this agility in your teams and encourage them to course-correct as they go. Because if they don’t, you’ll face many more roadblocks to achieving your goals.
For example, say you set a theme of improving overall customer experience with the high-level goal of having a top-five SaaS product in finance software. Then you define particular objectives to improve aspects of your user experience, followed by particular initiatives that contribute to achieving those objectives.
In that chain of information and planning, there’s a transfer of high-ambiguity goals into low-ambiguity activities meant to contribute to achieving those goals. But that transfer is also where you can create assumptions, going from high-level certainty to uncertainty.
It’s crucial then that every person on your team, from high to low level, takes ownership over their projects and how they align with the overall goals. The certainty developed at the high-level themes needs to trickle all the way down to the concrete steps individual teams take.
Establishing a culture of ownership empowers your employees to constantly question and investigate whether there’s a better, more aligned way to do their jobs. And that will help your organization achieve its overall goals.
Key 3: Make It Measurable
An integral part of staying on track toward your overall goals and aligning your product development strategy is being able to accurately measure your progress.
Leaders need to establish a framework that lets their teams know if they’re winning or losing, independent of opinion. You do this by having an independent arbiter of situations to measure progress.
When an objective, independent party reports progress, no one’s opinion is involved — not yours or the relevant team’s. This gives you confidence in the accuracy of the reports, and the team has confidence in the objective evaluation of their work according to clear measurements.
Make sure to set this framework up in a way that doesn’t limit the flexibility and self-governance that you established with Key #2. Teams still need to be able to adjust their approach as they go along.
For example, say you want to improve conversions on a particular channel. From the moment you set that goal, you should establish a way to measure those conversions outside of the marketing department. Make sure everyone understands the method and agrees upon it ahead of time.
Maybe you use an analytics team, or an automated system. The point is that the measurement is free of emotion and free of dependent reporting, and progress is measured objectively and accurately.
With objective reporting, teams can track their progress and accurately measure how close they are to achieving goals without worrying about reporting figures to leadership. Everyone understands the goal, their contributions to achieving it, and where they stand at any given moment.
Take the Time to Align Your Company
Aligning your product development strategy with your business goals is crucial for long-term success. Taking the time to do so will save you so many hours and resources typically lost to miscommunications and misalignments.
You can align your team by communicating transparent, structured goals, creating a culture of ownership, and setting up a neutral framework to track progress. And in doing so, you’ll help your organization to reach your goals faster and more efficiently than you thought possible.