How to keep track of your business & people alignment, when you’re still figuring out your business.

Kautuk Trivedi
Jun 22 · 10 min read

Why do you need this?

You’re a young-ish organization that has grown well, but still has a way to go. You’re still chasing that elusive business model that could give you sustained growth at scale. You keep your structures fluid so that based on what you learn everyday about how the customer needs to be served, you can respond and realign yourself to be in the best position to do so.

Every quarter or so, you reassess your priorities and where you’d want to spend money and need people to focus. This used to be easier to do when you were younger and a white-boarding session with your leadership team would typically be enough. But, now you’re 100 to 300 in size, the hierarchy isn’t as flat anymore (understandably so), the diversity of roles has increased and since you’ve been doing well, the stakes are even higher.

What you crave is a more structured approach to aligning your people strategy to your changing business needs, that allows you to look at it both from micro and macro perspectives and helps you take informed decisions.

In the pursuit of solving for ‘belongingness’, one of our values at Belong is to let your gut and data fight it out for the right decision to emerge. So we’ve developed a semi-scientific way of getting clarity on whether the right people are in the right roles, who you need to hire or move to another role and who you need to retain at all costs — given the direction you plan to take in the coming months.

What you crave is a more structured approach to aligning your people strategy to your changing business needs, that allows you to look at it both from micro and macro perspectives and helps you take informed decisions.

Part 1: Creating your strategy matrix.

Step1: Your goals and the means to achieve them

Start by putting down what you’re trying to achieve as a company i.e. targets that will be a true measure of how you’re doing. Typical examples of these would be Revenue, NPS or Active Users; we’ll call these Company Goals (CG)

Next, under these note down the sources or channels through which you’ll beat your Company Goals. These would typically be different products, offerings, services and/or business units that already exist or you plan on setting up. For eg. to identify sources for your revenue goal, ask ‘Where all is the revenue going to come from?’ — we’ll call these Sources (SR).

Company Goals and their Sources

Ps. It is likely that one source might lead to fulfilling more than one Company Goal. In this case, go ahead and repeat it under each Company Goal its applicable to.

Breaking it down further

If you’re large enough, you’ll still find the above matrix disconnected from a bottoms up perspective. To capture a more comprehensive picture we recommend mapping the projects your teams plan to work on in the next few months under each respective Source.

Typical example of projects would be features or platforms you’re upgrading or building anew, different models of delivery, marketing initiatives, product/service modules or input metrics you’re trying to move that would eventually impact the Company Goal (which is typically an output metric). We’ll call these Projects (PR).

Company Goals, their Sources and the related Projects

Step 2: Applying Weightage

Now that you’ve got your focus areas mapped out, the next step is to establish the extent of impact you expect your sources and projects to cause. Out of a total impact if 1, for each company goal, what portion would you attribute to each source — similarly — out of a total impact of 1, for each source within a company goal, what portion would you attribute to each project. You’d probably understand this better diagrammatically.

For eg. let’s look at the Revenue Target, where weightage have already been applied.

The Core Product is expected to contribute to 0.6 parts of the Revenue Target, Added Services 0.25 parts and Advertisement 0.15 parts. The same logic is applied to Projects under a Source. Note that the sum is always 1.

Repeat this step for each one of your Company Goals and Sources, and map weightage across your strategy matrix.

Mapping weightage for Sources and Projects

Setting weightage might be more straightforward in some cases than others. For eg. for a goal of increasing Active Users you might have already planned how many users you expect to acquire from each source, and so turning these into weightage would be easy. For the not-so-straightforward ones you will have to rely on your experience, opinion of peers and gut. In these instances go by what you’d expect the ideal case to be.

Step 3: Adding multipliers

The above matrix makes two obvious assumptions:

  1. All Company Goals are equally important for you (since you haven’t applied any weightage there)
  2. All Sources and Projects are meant only for fulfilling short-term Company Goals mentioned above

Typically, we’ve realized these assumptions do not hold true. You’d have one company goal which is more crucial to meet than the others and at any point you’re likely to be investing time, people and resources into Projects which have no impact in the short-term, but have a likelihood of nonlinear long term impact.

There might me more such assumptions/blind-spots you might recognize while you’re building you strategy matrix. To make sure they are accounted for, the next step is to add multipliers on top of the weightage.

For instance — if assumption #1 isn’t true and your COMPANY GOAL 1 is twice more important for you to beat than any other goal, given the state you’re in, assign a 2X Multiplier to all the Sources under COMPANY GOAL 1. This will double the weightage of all Sources under Company Goal 1.

AND

If assumption #2 isn’t true, assign a multiplier to each of the long term projects for the non-linear impact they are expected to have on company goals for the same period of time, say 2 years.

For eg. Project 2 is supposed 3X its impact over 2 years and Project 5, 5X.

Adding multipliers to your strategy matrix

By keeping the multipliers as a separate layer applied on top of the weightage, you allow yourself to play around with their value and see how that impacts the importance of different roles (something that’ll become clearer in Part 2 below).

Part 2: Determining the impact score of roles

Step 4: List of roles

Make a list of all the unique positions that exist in your company. Though you might not be big on ‘titles’, for the sake of this exercise, capture the specific area of focus for each role. Try and differentiate one role from the other as much as possible.

For eg. even though you might call all your tech folk ‘Software Engineers’, if you’ve hired some of them specifically since you needed people to help scale your Ad-Tech infra, go with ‘Software Engineer — Ad-Tech’. That way a ‘Software Engineer — Ad-Tech’ will be differentiated from, say, a ‘Data Engineer’. If you’ve gotten someone as an ‘SEO Specialist’, go with that instead of a more generic ‘Digital Marketing Associate’. Having said that, if they’re truly meant to be generalists in their current role, I wouldn’t force the issue.

Step 5: Determine the Impact Score of each role.

Here’s the logic we’re applying to calculate the Impact Score of a role —

For eg. If your Head of Product Marketing is involved in Projects 1, 5 & 7 then their Impact score would the sum of all weightage given to Projects 1,5 & 7 across Sources and Company Goals.

Eg. Impact Score for ‘Head of Product Marketing’

And if your Machine-Learning Engineers are involved in Projects 2, 3, 5 & 6 then their Impact score would similarly be calculated as follows:

Eg. Impact Score for ‘Machine-Learning Engineers’

Calculate this score for each role and arrange the roles in decreasing order of their impact score. Few things that you’ll notice right off the bat:

  • your CXOs rise up to the top due to their involvement in more than average number of Sources. You’ll also notice a few loopholes.
  • Ops/Admin roles like People Function, Finance, Admin — are all the way at the bottom since their way of impacting your Company Goals is very different from the business roles and R&D roles
  • this model doesn’t take into account the fact that two roles that are integral to identical Projects might still differ in the extent of impact they cause — for now adding this nuance to the mix may be unnecessary, but you’re welcome to try.

Part 3 — Generating Insights

To make this data talk, you’ll have to pair it with a few key data points. A simple table like the one below can help you get answers:

For the performance score — you could use data from the last Performance Appraisal that you ran, or any ongoing Reviews that you might have in place. If you use labels like ‘High, Medium, Low’ instead of numerical scores, thats cool too.

For North Star — this isn’t a make or break column for your table — but when it comes down to taking people decisions, it helps if you have a mapping of what each individuals North Star is i.e. where/who do they want to be in the long-term.

Now that we’re all set, lets try and answer the key questions we had identified at the top.

  • Look for mis-matches of performance and impact scores
    Can some high-performers be given more ownership, or work on more impactful stuff (A)
    Does a not-so-high-performer need mentorship or more leadership to fulfill a high-impact role — do they need to be replaced (B)
  • Look for mis-matches of impact scores of a role and the number of people in that role.
    Do some very impactful roles not have enough people © or roles of lesser impact have too many people (D)
  • Look at whether capable people in important roles have enough help
    Putting all of a crucial mandate on an IC might by risky
  • Look for mis-matches in people’s North-star goals and the role they are in or being considered for
  • While you’re at it, also look for places where your model, intuitively, doesn’t make sense
    Do you need a new multiplier to adjust for the mis-representation

Structuring information in this way can also give you insights on whether you have the right org structure, potential training needs for the organization, what the next potential role of an individual in the organization could be and so on.

Before you try this for yourself..

Note that, this doesn’t mean you don’t need great people in roles that have a lower impact score. The roles at the bottom of the list could be great growth opportunities for young folks, fulfilled by individuals rather than a group of people or a good way to get a new hire to start impacting. By doing this exercise on a quarterly basis you will realize that in a fluid and fast evolving business context like yours the impact scores across quarters could vary drastically.

Also, I don’t think this model is perfect yet. We’ve never blindly trusted it to take people decisions, I don’t know if we ever could. Final decision making still requires working with people to figure out how their interests and your organization’s interest could best align. What this exercise does provide is a workbook that allows you to discover areas that need attention and explore possible resolutions.

This is a V1 — so happy to have you go through it and share smarter ways of doing the same thing or point out loopholes/blind spots.

Do give this a shot, if you feel this will help your company. Would love to hear how it helped, how it didn’t and how this could be made better.

Here’s wishing you a high-belonging workplace.

Kautuk Trivedi

Written by

People Systems. Design. Malcontent. Currently Exploring. 🌿

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