This week I interviewed Wayne McCulloch, Chief Customer Officer at WalkMe and author of The Seven Pillars of Customer Success, about his strategic planning approach.

When he joined WalkMe just over a year ago, Wayne opted for a "bottoms-up" approach to strategic planning.

Many leaders, especially those starting new roles, can benefit from this methodology, which is why I want to share it here.

Note: The GGR podcast episode will release in early January, which includes critical lessons Wayne learned. Stay tuned for that.

When we're moving fast, it's tempting to gather input from our teams, customers, peers, and investors and build a top-down operating plan.

But as WalkMe's first Chief Customer Officer, Wayne wanted to take a more collaborative approach. He determined that his team understood the problems and opportunities intimately and had good insights into the solutions.

So Wayne decided that instead of building a top-down strategic plan, he'd facilitate a process by which everyone on his team could define and contribute to the operating plan.

A less experienced leader might be fearful of this approach. After all, if you were hired as the leader, shouldn't you have the answers?

But as a 30+ year technology industry veteran, including stints at Salesforce, Google, HP, and IBM, Wayne knew one person couldn't possibly come up with all the answers themselves.

Here's the process that Wayne used to build and execute in year one of his tenure and some of the results they have achieved thus far:

  1. Gathered input - Wayne spent the first couple of months gathering input from his team. This involved over 150 one-on-one meetings and dozens of group feedback sessions.
  2. Summarized themes - Wayne organized the feedback he received into eleven categorical themes and shared these back with the organization to ensure he was on track with what he heard.
  3. Crowdsourced Feedback - This is where it gets interesting... Next, he created a Google document for each of the eleven themes identified in the discovery. Each document contained the following elements:

    * The problem statement associated with the theme
    * What would best-in-class look like?
    * What do we need to do about it?
    * What can I do as CCO to help?

    He invited every team member to contribute to these documents and help answer the questions he outlined above. One hour per week for five weeks, each team member contributed their thoughts and feedback to each Google doc.

    At the end of Each week, Wayne reviewed the input from the team, asked more questions, commented, and invited further feedback and collaboration. He didn't hold a single meeting during this stage; all collaboration happened within these documents.
  4. They created a V2MOM to document the plan. V2MOM stands for Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. It's a simple management framework popularized by Salesforce that helps teams identify objectives (Methods) they will pursue in pursuit of their stated goals (Vision) and how they will gauge success (Measures). Values clarify "how" team members will work together to achieve the plan, and obstacles identify roadblocks that the team must clear to achieve success.
  5. Assigned Responsibility for Each Initiative - Wayne assigned an owner to each of the 11 initiatives. He made it a part of their job descriptions to drive the initiative forward (not just a spare time project but proper accountability).
  6. Branded the Program - The team branded the program as Eleven Up.
  7. Launched Cadence of Accountability - Held a monthly meeting where initiative leaders reported on progress, outcomes, and obstacles.

The bottoms-up approach allowed Wayne to quickly make an impact by leveraging his entire team's wisdom, passion, and energy.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Employee NPS ("eNPS") is up by over 40 points.
  • Significant reduction in voluntary employee attrition.
  • Gross retention rose over six percentage points in one year (a tremendous accomplishment for any SaaS company).
  • An even more significant uptick in net revenue retention.

(WalkMe is publicly traded. You can read more results in their latest earnings release.)

The thing I love most about Wayne's approach is his use of everyday collaboration technology (Google docs) for asynchronous collaboration, problem-solving, and team involvement.

As we head into 2023 under uncertain economic circumstances, how we involve and collaborate with our teams will be critical to our success and ability to scale.

It's not about working harder; it's about working smarter.


💡 Weekly Favorites

Here are some of my favorite podcasts, blogs, and videos from the week:

  • Aswath Damodaran, on the Prof G Podcast (Scott Galloway), explains why corporate regulation is now in the hands of many big-company CEOs such as Tim Cook of Apple.
  • While on the subject of Aswath Damodaran, here's his YouTube channel, which is chalked full of master's degree-level content on markets and corporate valuations. If you want to understand better the root issues causing softness in the tech industry, look no further.
  • There are many management frameworks out there. To name a few: V2MOM, OKRs, The Advantage (Patrick Lencioni), EOS (Traction), and Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX). Which one you choose is less important than company-wide alignment around it. Read more about V2MOM here.

See you next week.

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