The OKR Podcast
The OKR Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

The Fast Competitive Advantage of Alignment

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

LexisNexis Special Services & Risk Solutions Government CEO Woody Talcove talks about creating rapid competitive advantage with alignment and focus — creating customer value faster than competitors. He shares the fast wins and culture building experience OKRs enabled and how he got great outcomes in tough conditions.

You're listening to the OKA our podcast. We talked about the power of lateral alignment and outcome mindset and empowering teams to do their best work from anywhere. We also talk about operating as a digital company, which is crucial. Now her journeys, learnings and victories from our guest speakers and get expertise from our host to scale your leadership capacity and operate with high impact, trust and efficiency. Here's your host daydrea pack nod. Today my guest is Heywood telcove, the CEO of Lexis. Next is special services. He has several fabulous stories to share about his company and their achievements and insights. Over two thousand and twenty and they're okay. Our journey overall, it's been a challenging year, but woody and his team have had some real victories and I'm excited for him to share those with you today. We do you. Can you introduce your business and then let's just jump right into what led you to okay ours. We are considered the market leader in each of our segments and there isn't a day that goes by that our tools aren't used to do something in one of those four areas. People often ask me how do you lead an organization like this, and it's actually really interesting because when you think about our mission, everyone that works for this business is just heatly passionate about stopping fraud, catching bad people, enabling digital government and protecting our democracy. And what you do as a leader of the business is you work really hard at trying to align it and it's a journey. It's never done. The market changes, technology changes, customers needs change. So what you're always trying to do is make sure that you have the right people in the right positions and you have as much clarity to our purpose and how individuals contribute to that purpose as as humanly possible, because the more people understand what we're trying to do, the faster we go and the more delighted we make our customers. And it was that thinking that got me down the path of O Kr. So one of the things that all my team knows about me is I usually take the last couple of weeks of the year off and I sit there and during the year I'm up at thirty every single morning and I'm working, putting in fourteen to sixteen hour days. But that last two weeks of the year. I stay up really late, I sleep in and I really focus on all the things that I feel like we weren't doing well as a business, things that I think I need to focus on, things that I believe I need to improve on, and at the end of that journey I usually come up with a couple of ideas that I discussed with the team when we get back in January. It's resulted in some really interesting things. So the last time I felt as passionate about something was with our sales methodology relative to forecasting. It wasn't working, it was frustrating. We were write less than thirty percent of the time and as I went through that holiday period I did a lot of thinking, I did make some phone calls and I found a new methodology that allow us to really align the business around something that everybody understood, that was simple and in terms of how we do forecasting, binary gives or no, and so I've had that in my mind for the past couple of years and this last Christmas, last holiday season, I was thinking about you know, we all use different language when it comes to management. We've used Palm, we've used the word big rocks, we've used the word priorities. We use the word, you know, mission critical. That's something we hear often. Strategies,...

...objectives, goals, targets, KPI, strategic initiatives and ultimately having four or five frameworks for the deciding what's most important means no one actually knows what's most important. And I think that's compounded by the translation gap where leaders think in terms of the outcomes they need. Well, the vast majority of people, a layer to below that in the organization think in terms of the output, the work they'll do, and that output doesn't add up to outcomes. So we have the compounding problems of five or six different vocabularies with ten or twelve different meanings and just a different mindset between this sort of business results leaders think about and the activity that often the people in our organizations think about. I mean, there's been so many words over the past thirteen years but at the end of the day everyone was using different words and it meant something different to everyone. And one of my friends for my Christmas present got me a book because they know I like to read in the book was written by John Dore. That book was measure what matters and I basically read that book for eighteen straight hours and I said this is what we need. We need this, this this notion, this concept of an Okar that allows everyone to know what they want to do, because one of my things that I've always hated in any organization that I've ever run is the performance measurement process. So let's go write some performance measures in January and then we're going to evaluate our people basically twelve months later and we're going to look at those performance measures and this what? Eighty percent of them aren't relevant anymore because as we worked our way through the year, the environment changed and we had to adapt. I wanted something that had flexibility, I wanted something that that could work in an asynch goodness environments. I wanted something that would force in create alignment. So I read the book. Then I actually called a friend of mine who used to run son and I asked him what he thought of it and he explained that that was what he used to use when he ran son. And at that point I was often running and what I decided to do when to introduce the the concept was I didn't want to make it a top down so I started a task force and I had two people that are high potentials of gentleman eate Monty and Ken draw and I had them organize a task force to figure out how we were going to implement old k ours in the organization and make them ours right, not Google's, not adobees, but what do they mean to Lexis? Nexis? And they went through an exhaustive process. They interviewed a whole bunch of companies because one of the recommendations was we needed a tool. We had done all the other experiments on a spreadsheet. We had done the other experiments using things like one note or power points, and I will tell you it doesn't work. You need an astrengthness platform that every employee can see, that is transparent. So monty and Kendra work real hard to find the company which we chose. Work bored and it was an incredibly competitive process. But what work board had was the combination of the platform easy to use, I can use it, and it also had the expertise. Trying to implement something like this that's culturally different takes a lot of effort and having somebody, in...

...our case Lexi, help us integrate and work us through the process was incredibly useful. So once we selected the company and we knew we were going to do. We started the process and it was one of the most interesting experiences on my thirteen years at Lexis and probably one of the most in experience, one of the most interesting experiences in my career. What I brought the eastaff together and I said, so, what are our priorities? It took us, I don't know six hours to get clarity on what we thought was important. At one level we knew it was important, but we had never gone through the real process of getting it written down. And so one of the benefits of the okaur process is forcing that alignment and I'm telling you, those conversations were intense, done by zoom people. The team was vary engaged. We ended up creating three big objectives. Right. The first objective was around our financial performance, the second objective was around our innovation and the third objective was around efficiency. Right, and it literally took us six hours over multiple days to get to those three and for the first time, I can tell you, I really felt like we as a leadership team were aligned. Right, we all agree that those are the three most important things. Then what we did is we had each of the business units that run. The different businesses take those objectives and create their own objectives with their own key measures. That forced yet another series of conversations. If we knew one of the objectives was our performance financially, one was our ability to innovate, one was our ability to be efficient. For the first time they were having a conversation, not an Assilo but in an ecosystem where would they all had to think through how those objectives were going to be met within their business and unit. And again, something that I thought was going to take a couple hours ended up taking weeks worth of time to get the specific measures in place. Alignance messy work. It's completely worthy of your time and it's a bit of a painful realization when you figure out just how messy it is to really get aligned right. The conversations long and it's harder, and part of what makes it hard as you realize while we weren't really aligned and we were all making different assumptions, and one of those assumptions was that we were aligned or better aligned than we actually are. And one of the other challenges I see often and mature teams that adopt Ok ours for the first time is the shift from setting our most predictable targets, like the ones we know for sure we can reach, to setting targets and key results around what our best possible outcomes are. That best possible outcomes. That mindset is really powerful and it opens up the art of the possible, like what is great really look like, and it fosters a lot more ambitious thinking within the team, and I know you brought that forward. Tell us about how you brought that to life in your okay, our practice. One of the things that we were very clear about, and part of this came from the book, measure what matters was this was not an exercise and how you're going to be evaluated. This was an opportunity to be ambitious right. This was an opportunity, to use the example that was in the book with Google and the views on Youtube, write how do you get ambitious? How do you go beyond what you think you can do? And we took advantage of that. We told people they weren't going to get...

...evaluated right, but we also said, you know, if you're if you run a marathon and it takes your five hours, we don't want you to trying to compete and run A to hour marathon. Just just run a for our MARATHA. The other thing that we said, because you know, one of the one of the concerns we had early on was this is going to take a lot of time and effort. Why do we want to do it? And one of the charts that lexie showed us was it was five hundred and thirty eight hours and a quarter. I never knew that. And it turns out that it's worth spending a couple of days at the beginning of each quarter or the end of last quarter to make sure that your organization is aligned. I can sit there as the CEO and I can tell everybody what my priorities are, but what this does is it ensures that the priorities that I've set for the business are meaningful to every individual in the organization and they also are transparent so that people can pitch in and think about ways that they can make a contribution, they can innovate, they can get creative about trying to, you know, generate a solution to what our challenges are, what our opportunities are. So we've been through this for a few months and let me tell you where we are, because it's pretty incredible that the first part is we are aligned as a group. The conversations within the business units around performance, efficiency and innovation are happening. One of the outcomes was we started an innovation council to better that all the ideas. Another example is the specificity we're getting into with our marketing department and things that they're doing relative to social media and customer testimonials. The employees are so much clearer on what they can do to help and and and it's amazing when you put something in a tool that is completely visible, with heat maps and all these other analytic features, how much better the organization performs. So what I'm really excited about right now is, you know, we're working through q three. Is All the ideas now that we have for Q, for the refinements that we want to make. But the the part that is really important, and I would say this to to any leader considering implementing okay ours, is our conversations are different now. Our conversations are based upon on a very clearly articulated strategy with very clearly articulated results the employees. When we're not getting there, the conversations are coaching conversations. They're not meant as a performance conversation, and what I see is we're going to have a record year of revenue growth, our pipeline is at a record level and our employee satisfaction is at its highest level. And that's all during a worldwide pandemic. It's all during a situation where, March thirteen, we had to send every single person home to work remotely. You know, some people thought maybe we shouldn't do this now, maybe we should wait until after the pandemics overall we can get back to normal. I'll tell you this. It was more important to do it now than it was if we could have been in person, because managing remotely, using tools like teams and zoom and Google meets, is an entirely different experience for a leader. And with what we have going on right now and this overlaying on top of our organization,...

...everyone using the same words has allowed us in only to survive a pandemic but actually thrive. It's a competitive advantage that allows us to execute better than other is right now. So that's what it is in a nutshell, and if there is any questions you want to ask me, that would be the main piece of what I got for you. Sabulous, woody, and Kudos to the effort you put in and the conversation, the hard conversations at the beginning. That drove a change in velocity and connection over the course of the quarter and amazing and and certainly fortuitous to do work before the pandemic, before the move to home. So it was in plate right. The connections and the cohesion were in place before all of the sudden you're not physically cohesive at all. How did what are you hearing from employed? What are you hearing from people who are not your direct but a couple layers kind of deeper in the organization? I think so. So let's start with what it was at first to what it is now. Anytime you introducing something new into an organization you end up getting sort of three camps. You have this one camp that thinks it's a great idea, you have another camp that thinks I'm going to sort of watch and see what happens, and then you have another camp that is just resistance. Why do we have to keep on doing these initiatives? And you know we've done a couple of the initiatives over the year's home. I'm really comfortable in that environment and as I've been thinking individuals, as I had been asking questions, as I've been providing feedback to the tool, I've been speaking to a lot of our employees and I will tell you where we are now. Where we are now is employees providing suggestions of how to make it better, providing suggestions on what we need to do better, how they can provide and help us more accomplish our objectives. And ultimately, I think there are more excited right. Like I when I started this conversation, I told you, I think we've got a great mission right, stopping fraud, catching bad people, enabling digital government, protecting the democracy. I mean, who wouldn't want to work for a company that does that every day? But now what we've got is every employee, down to the person and customer service, to a person that's helping do an installation, they are engaged in understand and that level of transparency gives them more satisfaction right, and it also makes the business go faster. So I would say right now people are really excited. They're really looking forward to the updates we're going to do in queue for to make it even better and I think you know, compared to where we were as a business. As you know, we went through two thousand and nineteen and started two thousand and twenty without the tool. Compared to where we are today, we're in a lot better shape. In fact, I'd say one of the most important things, especially in light of the pandemic, is this will has really helped unify the organization across the enterprise in this sort of remote world that we're currently living it. It's fabulous. One of the things that I think is really potent in the quarter cycle, that quarter Capence of align focus learn, is that learning opportunity that comes every ninety days to look at what did we accomplish, what did we measure? Did we measure where value is really created and what do we learn, and that I think builds in this learning improving continuity that I think helps teams, not like the leadership level, but teams at every level, have different conversations. She only where do we go, but the open, kind of honest, candid conversation about where do we just travel and what do we learn about that that we can...

...help use or we can use to help us be smarter and faster in the next cycle and when every team is learning, every quarter about how they achieve their best outcomes. I think it's it adds up to incredible potency for the organization and and thinkly have culture change, often where everybody's invited to learn and improve and do that at a teaming level. Can you talk a little bit about the culture implications for for you in your org? So when we talk about the implications of o Kurs on the culture, you have to start from this, this piece that has bothered me from the beginning of my professional work experience, which is I'm going to set goals for somebody at the beginning of the year and then I'm going to give them some feedback throughout the year and then at the end of the year I'm going to do their evaluation based upon these objectives that, with the level of certainty, are completely irrelevant at that point because things changed, customers change, products change, priorities changed and that poor employee is looking at his or herr manager saying, I didn't really do any of this, but I think it did a great job. So I want to get, you know, a five on my performance evaluation so I can get the biggest rays. I have always stained that right. And what part of what this is doing from a cultural perspective is it's aligned the realities of how a business is run with how we measure our employees, as well as how we set priorities right. Some priorities may never change, the big ones, the objectives, however, the key results, they're going to change constantly. A new product gets introduced, competitive landscape changes, there's an external situation that occurs, whatever it might be, and and so one of the things when we talked about the culture right, we were really focused on enabling the culture in four areas, using the Oka our tool. So the first one was we really wanted to focus on achievements, like it's all about getting it done right. How it gets done, how the sausage gets made, that's up to the individuals. But if we have a growth objective to either we met it or we didn't meet it, and if we didn't need it, let's have an honest conversation to see what we could have done better. The second area was to focus on this this notion of risk taking. We wanted to better and enable our employees to take risks. When I started here thirteen years ago, this was a small business. Today it's a big, complicated business. With four different units, Ninezero customers and it needs to all the decisionmaking needs to be pushed out using the Okurs, because now I have a lot of confidence that they're aligned to what we're trying to get accomplished. We want them to take more risks and they're doing it. You know, they're enabling different marketing programs, different sales programs. Engineering is doing things at quite frankly, I never thought we could do in such record amounts of time. The third piece when it comes to cultural change was decisionmaking. So we like to really, really really study decisions. I mean we would put a lot of time, effort and energy into every decision that we made, and so one of the things that we stole is from a book that Colin Powell had written, and it in the book he talked about the forty seventy role and that was have at least forty percent of the information, but no more than seventy percent before you make a decision. That helps you go faster. Right, so that was a really important part to the cultural change. And...

...then the last piece was you know, we didn't have robots here, we had humans. In fact, we've got great people that Love Lexus that love what we do and we wanted to leave with passion and the old Kres tied to our mission. I really enable that. So, you think about it, you've gone to this culture that's been enabled because of the OKA ares around things that are achievement based, passionate leadership, risk taking and having the right amount of information to make a decision. Fabulous. Maybe, just to wrap up, and I think you've your perspective on the cultural implications and really I'll call it unlocking a culture of ambition. Those were fabulous insights and think and connecting the alignment to the ability to drive decisions closer to the front rather than concentrate those decisions at the top, and empower people to make them boldly rather than hesitantly. It's I think you've unlocked something really powerful there. As a close, if you could use three words to describe the impact, what three words would you would you choose to describe or characterize the impact of using our care to the process and using a workboard platform for the transparenting support of that process? I think it really is three really simple things. Number one, it forced alignment with the East. Imagine having to sit there for six plus hours trying to figure out what you really wanted to get done and get it written in a way that everyone could understand it, not going through a power point deck that is two hundred slides and the conversations in the debate. Getting my team aligned gets the entire organization alive. If you don't have that, then what you don't have is the second thing that this did for us is speed. Right, if everyone knows what you're trying to accomplish right, you can go so much faster. Look, there's there's so many things that go on in this business every single day that needs to occur to meet the demands of our customers. But the issue is there are some things that we really want to get focused on and by clarifying what those things are and making sure that and engaging the organization in that process, then you just go faster. And then ultimately, what this is done is we're winning more. We're winning more with our customer satisfaction, we're winning more with our speed to market on our products, we're winning more and delighting our customers, but the ultimate measure, which is our performance, our financial performance, we are doing very, very well in the marketplace at a time when most of our peers are struggling, and I really do leave it's because we've made the investment up front in this tool. What do you thank you for letting us be a partner in your journey? Alignment, speed and winning are its fabulous. Who Watch words for any leader, as you know, and we're just delighted to have been a part of that for you and thank you for that and your and your partnership, and thank you for joining us on the podcast today and sharing your story. It was delightful to hear and, I know, insightful for other leaders who are weighing how they travel on this path as well. You've been listening to the OKA our podcast. Subscribe in your favorite player so you never miss a moment. Thanks for listening. Until next time,.

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