Leadership Team Alignment
INTTRA, Inc. is a New Jersey-based firm that operates the world’s leading portal for ocean containerized freight. When the company’s CEO, Ken Bloom, first aligned his senior team in January 2005, the business was already growing at more than 100 percent a year. But Bloom insisted on raising the bar. “My goal,” he says, “was for every employee, all over the world, to be performing at the highest level and to be thinking strategically.”
Before the senior team’s first alignment, we interviewed each of his VPs to determine how strategically focused they were. The feedback showed that team members had been so immersed in controlling their own department’s urgent, day-to-day issues that they had not made enough time to step back and take a broader view of how to grow the company in its next phase of development. It also revealed that some members of the top team were unwilling to confide in one another when faced with the need to resolve business issues, and during the alignment session we focused on helping them improve their working relationships.
After the alignment session, Bloom looked for ways to reinforce the horizontal, high-performance concepts the team had been exposed to in order to keep them from backsliding into tactical, silo-based thinking and behavior. He also made sure that the level just below the VPs went through an alignment of its own, so the push for higher performance came from above and below. Bloom’s rationale: “Once that lower level of management understood what it takes to operate at a higher level of performance—which included accepting more responsibility—the VPs no longer had an excuse for not letting go of the operational issues. They couldn’t just pay lip service to the definition of trust that we’d agree on; once they started to talk the talk, they had to walk the walk.”
The single-level alignments were followed by the first multi-tier, which also took place in 2005. Explains Bloom, “We aligned the Senior Leadership Team (known as the SLT and made up of Bloom and his vice presidents) with the next level down (the Operational Leadership Team, or OLT, which is made up of the company’s directors within Commercial, IT, Product, Legal, Finance, and HR). A multi-tier alignment ensures that everyone is playing the same game: holding each other accountable, across functions, for business results. And there was a major cultural shift with the model. The organization becomes a house divided if you don’t change the culture on both levels.”
The company has continued to grow, breaking records in a way that has far exceeded the senior team’s expectations. In 2007, INTTRA was honored as one of Deloitte’s “Technology Fast 500,” a ranking of the 500 fastest-growing technology, media, telecommunications, and life sciences companies in North America.