How visible should your strategy be?
So you've got a great strategy and you know just how to execute it and cascade it across your organisation. However, there are some tricky questions that still need to be answered!
- Who should be able to see your strategy? And who should not?
- Who should be able to change and adapt your strategy down the organisation?
- Who should and should not be able to provide updates on progress?
- Who should be able to approve changes? And what needs approval?
The answer may be as simple as "Let everyone see and change everything". And with the right corporate culture, governance and auditing - that might be just fine for your organisation.
But let's take the example of a strategic objective in HR to "reduce headcount by 50% by the end of the year". In this scenario, would you want your regional Sales team to see this objective or how it's performing? Would you want your IT Manager to change or approve the metrics by which that HR objective was being tracked?
The truth is - there is no "one right answer!" Many different factors determine what's appropriate.
This article will talk about some of those considerations and real-world observations. It will also recommend a potential solution to help you decide the best approach for you.
Types of organisations?
Organisations come in all shapes and sizes. They can be grouped by number of employees, geography, sectors and industries. So the first question is - are there any trends between these groupings of organisations and strategy visibility?
Traditionally, organisations implementing The Balanced Scorecard have a restrictive model, where owners have read/write access to their own scorecard and that of any of the teams within their own departments, or employees in their team. This was especially true for banks and government organisations.
Younger Small and Medium Businesses, especially in construction and FMCG, usually preferred to give everyone more visibility and traceability by making it clear how their objectives and KPIs link all the way back to the top-level corporate objectives - but preferred to not provide visibility to non-managerial staff across departments. For example, would an employee in IT Operations really need to know that a Sales executive had just achieved 400% on his sales target?
And then there were organisations like start-ups, educational institutions, charities, NGOs and semi-government departments, that wanted to promote full transparency and collaboration - actively encouraging people, teams and departments - to publish and promote their local objectives and performance - to help everyone in the organisation understand what their focus is, and is not!
But in reality, there is no way of knowing for sure what was really happening across all these types of organisation - and then, there are always exceptions to every rule. There were probably plenty of startups who kept their strategy well guarded. And plenty of large multi-nationals, who promoted full visibility to every employee (ahem ... Google).
Strategy Methodology deployed?
What about looking at it from the perspective of the methodology the organisation used for its strategy execution?
We mentioned Balanced Scorecard above. Some would argue that the purpose of this methodology is to increase all-round visibility. But in reality, that is not how it is always implemented. Level 1 and Level 2 corporate performance is often guarded in many organisations - on a "need to know" basis. It could be well argued that this restrictive view is even more prevalent in organisations using MBO or OGSM. And it's not all about visibility, there is also the question of who gets to change and approve change.
The OKR approach is probably founded on the most permissive principles - encouraging every individual to socialise their personal goals and key results wide and often. Most implementations would actively encourage individuals to stretch themselves, and actively showcase how they are doing, how they did, what they learned, and what others can learn.
However, there are just as many examples of organisations that deploy an OKR approach and want some kind of assurance about what's being reported - so that they can make strategic decisions with more confidence - knowing that the submissions are accurate, evidenced and consistent - so that they are "comparing apples with apples".
From our observations, the overriding factor that usually determines the visibility of a strategy is the company culture.
Organisations with high-level of trust between management and non-management (like Toyota in the 1970s), actively encouraged everyone to 'own their own problem domain', 'be the expert' and 'know how to prove your own business value'.
In such a culture, there were very few secrets - and everyone was empowered to contribute to the wider good - and so often went above and beyond what was needed.
The same with Google's approach to implementing OKRs. From the outset, every employee's objectives were highly visible, so others new what they cared about, and what their focus was on.
On the other hand, there are organisations where there is not yet that level of collaboration between management and non-management. Maybe, unlike 1970s Toyoto or early Google, the organisation has a very different dynamic between white and blue collar. Maybe there are Chinese walls or much stronger governance obligations.
Also, nothing stands still. Maybe the company is moving in particular direction - where it aspires to be more permissive - but isn't quite ready yet. And setting the visibility to a particular model, may help move the culture of the organisation in that direction.
So this might not be the answer you were looking for - but I hope it all shows that the answer to "How visible should your strategy be?" is probably .... "It depends."
However, I hope it's given you some food for thought, to help you get to the right decision. Or should i say, the right place to start.
So keeping all that in mind, what would you want from your strategy execution and performance management tooling?
kippy takes the opinion that the best way to solve this problem is by providing the flexibility to:
1) Start with a sensible default visibility and access model to get you going quickly.
2) Allow you to easily switch to a number of difference common models, whenever you want.
3) Customise those models to your specific requirements, when you need to.
Common access models
The 5 common access models are best described by the diagrams below :
You can try them out yourself by logging into your kippy instance as a System Owner and going to Settings | Setup | Team visibility model | Access mode.
And as per usual, kippy provides the ability to customise those default access models to perfectly fit your exact use case.
I hope this helps - any questions - please contact us via the Live Chat or at firstname.lastname@example.org
CEO and Founder
kippy - performance management ... made simple