The Salesforce Secret to Success

Secret to Success

This piece was originally published in 2013. The V2MOM tool and Marc’s thinking behind it remain highly relevant today. So we’re sharing it with you again — as well as adding new content from his latest book...

Over the past 21 years, we’ve grown Salesforce from a four-person company to one with more than 50,000 employees. I’ve always thought our biggest strength is how we’ve maintained alignment while growing quickly.

Success depends on constant communication and complete alignment. We’ve been able to achieve both with the help of a management process I developed a number of years ago called the V2MOM, which stands for: Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. 

In this article, I’d like to share why I think the V2MOM alignment process is critical to our success, along with behind-the-scenes detail on how we approach it every year.

The V2MOM focuses collective energy

We need to be in the present moment and pay attention to where we are and what’s going on to help us deal with those smaller, less monumental issues that dominate the bulk of our time. You have to convince others to align with your vision to plot a course forward. You need to prioritize. And at a big company, you need to scale the process of setting priorities for tens or hundreds of thousands of employees.

“ Although there are many leadership paradigms and frameworks available to executives these days, the V2MOM approach offers the virtue of simplicity. It is easy to digest and implement.”@BENIOFF | CLICK TO TWEET 

The V2MOM enables me to clarify what I’m doing, and then communicate it clearly to the entire company. It boils down to these five questions, which create a framework for alignment and leadership:

  1. Vision— what do you want to achieve?
  2. Values — what’s important to you?
  3. Methods — how do you get it?
  4. Obstacles — what is preventing you from being successful?
  5. Measures — how do you know you have it?

The five parts of the V2MOM give us a detailed map of where we are going and an understanding of how to get there.

Salesforce’s first V2MOM

In the first few weeks of operation at Salesforce, I suggested that my cofounders and I commit to writing a V2MOM. Although Parker Harris (now Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Salesforce) may have thought it was somewhat strange at the time, something made him save the original V2MOM, which I had scribbled on a large American Express envelope. 

He framed it and gave it to me on the day of our IPO. You can see how it established a foundation for the company — and how it has steered us to date. In a sense, that V2MOM became our business plan.

A living, breathing document

What I like about the V2MOM is that it encourages creativity, change, and empowerment. Different team members can lead different methods, and they update the V2MOM as the year progresses. We think of the V2MOM as a living and breathing document.

Stagnant management tools like once-a-year performance reviews don’t cut it in today’s fast-moving environment, which requires that companies adapt continuously. Organizations that don’t adapt have problems in the long run, and these antiquated tools don’t inspire constant change. The V2MOM, on the other hand, sparks meaningful dialogue and informs decision-making throughout the year. Employees engage in conversations with their managers around their priorities on an ongoing basis.

Today, at Salesforce, we’ve expanded the scope of the V2MOM to both individuals and teams across the company: Each year, every single department and every single employee drafts their own. As a result, this practical exercise in raising our corporate consciousness and courses through the entire organization from top to bottom.

And to foster transparency, we publish every V2MOM on our corporate social network Chatter instead of hiding them in a vault.

Anyone can look up any employee’s V2MOM to see how each plans to contribute to our company’s future. We even built an app that allows every employee to track their progress on each item in their V2MOM.

Create your own V2MOM

The V2MOM has been used to guide every decision at Salesforce — from those we made in 1999 to the decisions we make today as the largest high-tech employer in San Francisco. I’ve also introduced it to other business leaders.

The beauty of the V2M0M is that the same structure works for every phase in the life cycle of an organization. We’ve used it as a business plan for our start-up, and we find the same construct to be effective for outlining the annual goals of a public company.

Ready to create your own V2MOM? Always start with a beginner’s mind, which is a concept that comes from Zen Buddhism — a beginner’s mind allows you to constantly see the world with fresh eyes. This mindset will help you declutter your mind, dispose of outdated assumptions, eliminate distractions, and allow yourself to focus on the what, why, and how of whatever you set out to do. 

Think about your overall organizational goals or a present-day challenge within your organization, and discover how you can outline the steps to succeed in your effort through the V2M0M process. You might have more than one answer to each question. Be sure to prioritize your answers.

Vision (What do you want to achieve?)

What is the vision for what I want to achieve?’ That’s the first question that must be asked, because if you aren’t crystal clear on where you want to go, good luck trying to get there.

Values (What’s important to you?)

Ask yourself, “What’s important to me about this goal? What are the values supporting the vision?”

After making a list of values, I rank them in order of importance. It’s an exercise that forces me to choose between pairs of competing priorities — if everything is a priority, nothing is.

Methods (How do you get it?)

Establish the methods for implementing your vision and values. This part of the framework outlines all the actions and steps that everyone needs to take to get the job done. You should also rank these methods in order of priority.

Obstacles (What is preventing you from being successful?)

The fourth part identifies the obstacles you might have to overcome to achieve your vision. What challenges, problems, and issues are standing between you and achieving success? Which obstacles are the most critical to resolve, and how will you resolve them?

Measures (How do you know you have it?)

Finally, tackle the problem of coming up with the appropriate measures. How will you know when you are successful? In my mind, a subjective yes-or-no judgment doesn’t cut it. You need data and metrics to determine what success looks like.

At Salesforce, everything we do in terms of organiza­tional management is based on our V2MOM. In short, our V2MOM:

  • Powers the way we run our business
  • Allows us to define our goals and organize a principled way to execute them
  • Takes into consideration our constant drive to evolve

The collaborative construct works especially well for a fast-paced environment and times of crisis. It is challenging for companies to find ways to maintain a cohesive direction against a backdrop that is constantly changing, but V2MOM is the glue that binds us together.

Create organizational alignment in your business by taking the V2MOM Trail on Salesforce’s free learning platform, Trailhead.

If you’re looking for top Salesforce talent to join your team or are a Salesforce professional looking for a new role, please get in touch with us today!


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