Senior Team Alignment: a major ingredient in strategy execution

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 . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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3 Responses to Senior Team Alignment: a major ingredient in strategy execution

  1. Pingback: The New CEO’s Secret Weapon . . . | John R Childress . . . rethinking

  2. Pingback: The New CEO’s Secret Weapon . . . | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

  3. Pingback: The New CEO’s Secret Weapon | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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