Member Eric Billingsley Speaks: Seeking Organizational Alignment? Try a “Panic Monster” Instead

The Challenge:

In the situation at hand, an executive was struggling to build a sense of urgency throughout her organization. Eric Billingsley, Co-Founder and CEO Guide-Rails, suggests creating a strategy that motivates employees around department-specific milestones that are designed to resonate with them.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

I have been in your shoes, and I know the feeling of dread as milestones approach and employees flounder. In my experience, attempting to get everyone in “alignment” across different departments can be a fool’s errand – dare I say even impossible. What matters more than everyone “buying in” is creating an environment of incentives that drives real results. To get there, I would create a strategic plan built on department-specific motivators that resonate and drive results. I call these motivators “panic mwonsters,” something that disturbs equilibrium and drives a group to task completion. I learned of “panic monsters” from Tim Urban’s 2016 TED Talk, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.

I’ve observed that company departments usually take one of three different approaches to work. To understand these, imagine a group of people stuck on a deserted island. They identify another island out on the horizon, and want to find out if it's habitable. The first group of people will jump right in the water and start swimming – these might be the salespeople. The second group will create a meticulous plan and carefully pack their raft with provisions before embarking – this might be product. Finally, there are those who will wait for the first two groups to return before making any decisions themselves – finance often fills this role. In applying this categorization to my momentum-building strategy, I would identify what types of “panic monsters” each team within my organization responds to. For example, my product team might respond well to a scheduled product launch presentation, while my finance team might respond more directly to a deadline to have the budget for that project approved.

I often remind myself of Aristotle’s words, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” As each team addresses their own “panic monsters,” I can move the whole company forward – together. Best of luck!