How to keep everyone moving in the same direction

SpaceX and the secret to company alignment

Organizational alignment means that everyone knows where the company is going, and some of the steps needed to get there. At the very least, they know the steps they need to take to get there. Everyone is moving in the same direction.

One of the best tactics for getting alignment comes from SpaceX, a tool called mission-to-metrics.

What is mission-to-metrics?

Here's a succinct explanation from Ali Rowghani:

"One of the best examples of “Mission-to-Metrics” alignment comes from a friend who visited the manufacturing floor at SpaceX. Seeing a SpaceX employee assembling a large part, he stopped to ask him, “What is your job at SpaceX?”

He answered, “The mission of SpaceX is to colonize Mars. In order to colonize Mars, we need to build reusable rockets because it will otherwise be unaffordable for humans to travel to Mars and back. My job is to help design the steering system that enables our rockets to land back on earth. You’ll know if I’ve succeeded if our rockets land on our platform in the Atlantic after launch.”

The employee could have simply said he was building a steering system for landing rockets. Instead, he recited the company’s entire “Mission-to-Metrics” framework. That is alignment."

Mission-to-metrics (M2M) means every person in your company understands what they're doing, and why it's important for the company's mission. There's no better definition of alignment.

How to implement mission-to-metrics

M2M needs to be implemented as both a top-down AND a bottoms-up approach.

Your company's mission should already be defined. If not, start there. It should be simple, clear, and tangible, exactly like "colonize Mars." Elon Musk is great at this; see Tesla ("accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy") and the Boring company ("reduce traffic in metropolitan areas").

From there, we go top-down. Each sub-organization in your company should define its own mission that fits into the broader goal ("we build the rockets that will help us colonize Mars"). Each team within those organizations should do the same.

Individuals should come up with their M2M statement, with help from their managers. This is a good opportunity to make sure people are doing work they care about; if it's hard to come up with an M2M statement, perhaps they are in the wrong area of the organization.

Using mission-to-metrics to help collaboration

When every individual has a personal M2M statement, like that fellow at SpaceX, it's easy to come together to collaborate across teams.

Requests for collaboration should be framed within this concept. Encourage employees to make requests in this format: "Hey, I'm Rebecca, I design the steering system that enables our rockets to land back on earth when returning from Mars. Can your team help us with this particular task?"

M2M makes it easy to understand how another team's project relates to your own team's goals. It makes it easy to turn down irrelevant requests, or point them to the right people.

Encourage your managers to constantly update an individual's M2M, and encourage individuals to use M2M to frame their collaboration requests.

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