The No. 1 job of any CEO is to own the organization’s vision and values. This is the one job the CEO cannot delegate. Additionally, as VF’s former CEO, Rob Gregory explains, CEOs must own their organizations’ strategic, organizational and operating processes. While most of the actual work in these areas is delegated, CEOs retain ultimate accountability because they are the critical points of integration between owners or boards and organizations. The best CEOs deploy differential delegation based on the strength of their team and complexity of their situation.
The Strategic Process is about the creation and allocation of the right resources to the right places in the right way over time. It comes from the Greek “strategos” and is the art of the general, arranging forces before battle. Think in terms of broad choices for how to achieve objectives.
The Organizational Process is about people – acquiring, developing, encouraging, planning and transitioning them. You can’t get from strategy to execution without people. The strongest organizations have what Jorge Pedraza called “tactical capacity” – “A team’s ability to work under difficult, challenging conditions and to translate strategies into tactical actions decisively, rapidly, and effectively”(from The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, Wiley & Sons – 4 editions).
The Operational Process is about making things happen, tactics. This comes from the Greek “taktikos,” the art of deploying forces during battle. This includes tasks that roll up into projects that in turn roll up into programs to design, build, sell, deliver or support products or services.
The Governance Process is about ensuring compliance with laws, regulations and policies. Note this process is generally owned by the board.
Strategic Process: Many organizations re-look at their long-term strategies on some sort of annual basis. While the CEO may delegate process management to someone like the head of strategic planning, CFO or the like, the CEO must be intimately involved in key decisions. If vision and values are the CEO’s No. 1 job, strategy is a close second.
Organizational Processes have both long-term and short-term components as they bridge from strategy to execution. Future capability planning flows directly from strategies and is generally done on an annual basis along with succession and contingency planning. These efforts set the direction for the more tactical parts of the organizational process. CEOs’ direct involvement with the different parts of the organizational process will depend on the size and maturity of the organization and whether there is a true chief human resource officer in place.
Operational Process: This is about leash management for the CEO, giving those responsible more or less leash depending upon the trust they deserve. Tasks generally get done and managed daily by first-line managers. Projects, made up of tasks, can be managed and tracked weekly. Programs, made up of projects, can be managed and tracked monthly. So, if things are going well with a particular program, CEOs should be satisfied with monthly updates. If things are going less well, CEOs should shorten leashes and intervene more frequently.
Implications for you:
The best CEOs deploy differential delegation based on the strength of their team and complexity of their situation. If you follow the 40-30-20-10 Rule of Time Management, you’ll spend 40% of your time on your No. 1 priority – most likely strategic, 30% of your time on your No. 2 priority – most likely organizational, and 20% of your time on your No. 3 priority – most likely operational. Your level of delegation will be inverse to that with more delegation of operational and less of strategic issues.
Most of us have unbalanced strengths. Make sure you’re building complementary strengths in your organization. If you are relatively weak operationally, you need a strong chief operating officer. If you are relatively weak organizationally, you need a strong chief human resource officer. If you are relatively weak strategically, make sure someone can help you with that, from any position.
Be prepared to adjust depending on the situation. As any area heats up, dig in deeper. And, in a crisis, you may have to become the short-term project manager.