Leadership, Ownership and Responsibility in Strategic Plan Implementation
If an organization is expecting to execute strategy well, it must drive behavioral changes within the organization. Building a strong team of leaders to communicate and champion the strategic plan is essential. This issue could be one of the most challenging tasks. Managers’ commitment and leadership levels and the roles that they can play are essential for successful implementation of the strategic plan. Leadership entails the ability to surface the need for change; to suppress or remove barriers to change; and to secure short-term wins. These three objectives are done by:
Not suppressing internal conflict to enable key players to see the need for change.
Closely monitor corporate noise levels. Corporate noise occurs when different parts of an organization are unable to resolve alignment issues between themselves and instead continually escalate these issues to senior management for resolution.
Facilitating realization of the need for change using influencing skills.
Being ready to present a plan of action for change quickly.
Effecting a major, highly visible action aimed at creating a sense of oneness/unity.
Establishing ways for easier communication/interaction between disparate groups.
Continually promoting a sense of corporate ownership.
Engendering strong buy-in by seeing through promised actions.
Identify and quickly implement high value-adding initiatives with short delivery time-frames to communicate intent and delivery focus.
Display strong energy and authority.
In addition, the need for a corporate support team is very important. The general purpose of this corporate team is to foster synergies among the various business units and support units. Corporate team must find ways to enable these synergies among the business and support units. Based on strategic direction, corporate team might consider:
Reallocation of capital to strategic functions.
Enable resource sharing to create economies of scale.
Enable and encourage customer sharing to cross-sell products.
Support and fund knowledge sharing and best practices among business units.
Encourage and reward behaviors that support strategy.
Strong corporate strategy team is critical to the success of the strategy implementation. A good team combines strategic vision with advocacy, communication and administrative skills to keep the process on track and aligned with the corporate strategy. The number of employees assigned to corporate strategy team on a full-time basis can vary by organization. However, it can range between 3 and 15 personnel, with the average of 7 employees.
The corporate strategy team might also be referred to as a “change agent” for executive leadership. This role works behind the scenes in many cases as a missionary, a consultant, a point person, and a chief of staff, to shepherd the strategy from the earliest development stage to sustainable execution stage. This central role of corporate strategy team is mainly to:
Provide an integrated approach to strategy management that bridges traditional functional domains such as finance, planning, and performance measurement.
Ensures that the organization sustains its focus on strategy by integrating strategic focus concepts and principles into the organization.
Focus on integration of governance systems for strategy.
The corporate strategy team is primarily responsible for oversight and administration of strategy execution. Managing strategy is different than managing functions:
Traditional competencies are based on functional niches which create silos.
Strategic management requires cross-functional processes.
There is no logical home for cross-functional processes.
In general, the corporate strategy team is the custodian of cross-business processes required to execute strategy. The corporate strategy team owns or coordinates the following steps in the strategy planning cycle:
Strategy Development: The process to formulate and update strategy.
Strategy Management: Design and report on objectives and measures.
Organization Alignment: Ensure alignment of all organization levels with the strategy.
Planning & Budgeting: Link to strategy.
Human Capital Alignment: Ensure alignment of each individual with the strategy.
Strategy Communications: A comprehensive communication and education process focused on strategy.
Initiative Management: Identify and oversee management of strategic initiatives.
Strategy Review Process: Ensure effectiveness of strategy review and learning meetings.
Best Practice Sharing: Facilitate process to identify and share best practices.
Leaders have the ultimate responsibility for strategy in an organization. It is important the whole organization is clear on what strategy is. Strategy implies going from here to there. The organization never was there before. And “there” implies new customers, new products, new attitudes, and new culture in the organization. Dr. Norton said: “Strategy is about taking an organization from where it is today and taking it to some place it has never been before; to do that you have to execute change.” Strategy management tools are useful to facilitate this change. But it helps to start with a broader view of the process. It is important on how the transformation is managed to lead the organization to successfully execute its strategy. Common weaknesses that exist within leadership and ownership scope are described below:
Not initiating a change program with strong, continued focus on the day-to-day activities.
Employee engagement and support is not enough.
Not ensuring a clear sequence of activities, based on corporate priorities, and separate change activities from business-as-usual.
Not being consistent and methodical in approach.
Not empowering key individuals and trusting them to lead change.
Not nurturing future leaders and future visionaries.
Not creating a platform to challenge and agree corporate priorities.
Not ensuring all players has access to this platform, particularly the uncommitted.
Fostering collaboration and cooperation among key staff is not enough.
Not making strategy the central agenda in all reviews and meetings.
Not appointing clear team/leader with primary responsibility for facilitating and driving strategy execution.
Regularly communicating benefits not enough.
Not able to anticipate change in behaviors.
Not ensuring clear roles and responsibilities in owning initiatives.
Not encouraging transparency.
Unable to manage issues at appropriate levels.
Some organizations begin by creating awareness of the need for change in their organizations. Sometimes this is obvious. If the organization is losing million of dollars per day, it is obvious that change is required. In other cases, there are organizations that are leading their industry, but anticipate the impact of e-commerce, or some other global change that is taking place. So they use strategic initiative to get the organization moving. Strategy requires a vision for where the organization is going, and a plan to get there.
In short, it is the responsibility of leaders to strategically manage the organization. Strategy management is a continuous process rather than a one-time event. Therefore, leaders must become strategic thinkers of the organization and its culture, changing it as necessary. To be the most successful, leaders need to be facilitators, coaches, consultants, and consensus-builders. Transformational leadership is described by Bernard Bass as, “superior leadership performance that occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self interest for the good of the group”. Acquiring transformational leadership traits requires hard work and dedication, willingness to take some risks, and internalizing the organization’s vision and guiding principles.
The important and critical items on the leadership and ownership check list are designed to address the content, process, and impact of leadership and ownership during strategy development and execution phase. The recommended items are described in the following check list:
Powerful change management capabilities exist.
Awareness of need to change and desire to change.
Organizations need to commit the key people that they feel the change as a solution and not as a problem.
Knowledge to do the change by understanding the major issues.
Identify the players, sponsor, advocates, targets, and black-holes.
Prepare specific change actions and detailed plans.
Implementation of a knowledge management model.
Leadership plays a critical role in cultural transformation.
Role of change and transformation manager in each organization is needed.
Relationships should be shown and communicated visually with the use of a strategy map.
Transparency needs to be present in order for the cause & effect relationships to be revealed.
Managers receive relevant financial and operational information in a timely manner.
Need to increase culture of transparency and knowledge management.