Recently I was asked to look at a business of a friend of mine and provide some candid feedback. He has a strong vision for where he wants to go and what the business should look like. And I would argue that he even has a decent plan to get there.
And yet — when I looked at his business it all didn’t make that much sense after all.
What had happened was that somehow his vision had been lost in translation and his team was doing what they thought was the right thing to do. Which, in isolation, made perfect sense — just not in conjunction with everything else and not in light of the vision. People spent time optimizing for the wrong thing, talking to the wrong customers and partners, measuring the wrong metrics.
When you build your company, first establish your vision and make sure you communicate it well and repeatedly to your team (and keep repeating it — using the exact same words again and again). Then make sure that you do both a top-down planning exercise and a bottom-up validation process. Top-down is the act of breaking things down into smaller units, figuring out what the things you truly care about are and then letting people figure out how to get there (as you surely don’t want to micromanage them). Then look at all the activities and plans your team came up with and make sure they all align toward the common vision. Make sure it all fits together and regardless how you look at your business it is one cohesive picture.