When a business strategy has failed to be successfully delivered, the cause most often rests with the senior team. It’s not that they aren’t committed to the success of the company, but they aren’t aligned! By alignment at the top we mean that the majority of the focus of the senior team, both collectively and as indiviuals, is on the successful delivery of an enterprise-wide set of strategic objectives, and not on their functional objectives and budgets.
Recent studies of executive meetings has shown that less than 5% of meeting time is spent on strategic issues, the rest being devoted to day-to-day operating issues and functional updates. Even when the intent of the meeting is strategic, the agenda quickly gets hijacked by operational problems and budget issues.
When members of the senior team are more focused on their departmental objectives and budgets, any sort of horizontal collaboration quickly deteriorates into a “win-lose negotiation” around scarce resources and budgets. With the heavy silo-focus that is common in most organizations, it is easy to see why turf battles and interdepartental squabbles are so common, and why the focus on delivering departmental agendas can easily sub-optimize overall strategy execution. As a result, the CEO often feels like a “referee”, trying to get the senior team to work together.
In our experience one of the key requisites for successful strategy execution is to realign the attention of the senior team onto strategic objectives as opposed to their functional objectives. In other words, the job of the senior team must be redefined in terms of the delivery of the business strategy.
This refocusing of the role of the senior team has two key advantages. First it puts those who have the most authority at the center of the strategy delivery process, so that when a problem with a specific strategic initiative is discovered, the focus of the entire senior team is on fixing the problem, rather than the current scenario of endless meetings called by the programme office to coordinate between groups to recommend a solution, which then must go upstairs for approval, to result in another set of meetings, etc., etc., etc. All resulting in the wasting of precious time. And time is the enemy of a competitive strategy.
The second advantage in making the senior team accountable for the strategy instead of their functions, is that it naturally leads to a reduction in the size of the senior team, something that all CEOs struggle with. In the normal silo-focused organization everyone wants to be on the senior team so that their function will be well represented, especially at budget time! Everyone is looking out for their functions and not the overall enterprise.
By shrinking the senior team to a few key decision makers whose job it is to deliver the strategy across all organizational boundaries, decision making becomes faster and the ability to reposition people and corporate assets to better suit the enterprise strategy is far easier. This realignment of the senior team also helps grow the next layer of management, who now must step up to assume a bigger leadership role.
What steps are required to better align your senior team to deliver on your strategic intent?
Tight Lines . . .