Three years in at Koan, we are more passionate than ever about the opportunity to build a modern leadership platform that tackles one of the most important problems in business: alignment. Slack founder Stewart Butterfield has called the creation and maintenance of alignment the “fundamental challenge” for companies. This isn’t a new problem, and businesses have tried myriad approaches to making progress, including spending nearly $300B a year on management consulting, in large part to to work on their company mission, vision, and strategy. Despite all the efforts and investments, the struggle for alignment via lasting behavioral changes and true impact continues. The opportunity is huge — teams working towards the same north star waste less time, achieve more, and feel more purposeful in their work.
If alignment is the fundamental challenge, why hasn’t it already been solved in software? In many ways alignment represents a natural next challenge for the enterprise. When I co-founded Jive Software in 2001, we had the incredible good fortune to build a $200M business helping organizations work better together. Jive enabled collaboration by opening new communication channels across offices and timezones. For our customers, it was a minor revelation.
And that was only the beginning. As companies learned to work better together, attention shifted to the more complicated problem of actually delivering that work. A second wave of tools like Smartsheet and Asana took aim at enterprise productivity, tracking employees’ work and progress towards specific deliverables. These tools built on a collaborative foundation to help companies manage tasks and build accountability. Not only could organizations communicate effectively across time and space—productivity software gave them structure to help get things done.
Today, collaboration platforms and productivity tools are an integral part of the modern enterprise. But the focus is shifting once again, and productivity is no longer enough. A new generation of workers are demanding an answer to Stewart Butterfield’s challenge. Just as collaboration gave way to productivity, the next opportunity is to level-up from tactics to strategy and finally tackle alignment.
The Spreadsheet is No Longer Enough
If you’re looking to align your organization, where do you start? Probably a spreadsheet to track your goals or OKRs, plus a quarterly all-hands where you re-connect employees with the mission and vision. Unfortunately, this has never actually worked well. People forget the goal, don’t update the spreadsheet, and it’s difficult to surface actionable insight. The problem is getting even vastly harder with the meteoric rise of remote employees. The “good enough” approach that could be supplemented with water cooler conversations and in-person camaraderie no longer cuts it. It’s more critical than ever to build competencies and structure to run these processes at scale.
A Modern Leadership Platform
With Koan, we’re helping leaders achieve alignment by engaging their employees through simple, frequent habits like weekly status updates, OKRs and KPIS. By capturing human insight and hard numbers across the company, Koan is the first platform that helps leaders:
- See the Future - staying ahead of trouble with leading indicators and collaborative insights
- Do the Right Work- achieving key priorities through transparency and relentless focus
- Get More Impact with Less Effort - saving time and shoulder-taps by operationalizing leadership best practices that engage every employee
- Achieve Their Goals - enabling the business to achieve unparalleled levels of goal attainment
We carry a set of design principals into every conversation about how we build a product to accomplish those outcomes:
- Insightful: At a glance, view your organization’s progress through an intuitive interface.
- Engaging: Koan engages every employee in the company’s strategic direction by helping leaders make best practices friction-free and ubiquitous. Objectives aren’t set on high and forgotten—they’re a key part of every team’s regular conversations and staff meetings. Status updates build transparency and foster meaningful conversations.
- Habit-forming: Great results start with small habits. Teams use Koan build predictable routines around setting goals, addressing concerns, sharing feedback, and celebrating wins. Good software should help build the “heartbeat” of how the company runs.
- Compounding: From individual teams up to the entire organization, Koan’s value increases exponentially at every level. While work begins with individual employees, their insights, feedback, and contributions help paint a remarkably detailed picture of the company.
There are many tasks that software isn’t yet ready to fill—setting the vision, building relationships, and actually doing the work, to name a few—but we’re incredibly excited to be building the platform that can be part of the solution for moving work forward. If you’re ready to align your company and help your employees discover more purposeful work, we’re excited to introduce Koan.