Strategy is choices. CEOs shepherd organization-wide choices about creating and allocating resources to the right places in the right way at the right time over time. Yet, most CEOs are not strategic personally about the choices they make around their own time allocation. One fix is more specificity around their attitude and role as Chief Enablement, Enforcement, Enrollment, or Experience Officer in line with their organization’s strategy, culture, organization and operations.
This is a mash up of ideas previously discussed in Boris Groysberg et al’s article on “The Culture Factor” and my own articles on strategic points of inflection, “Sophisticated” leadership, and aligning strategy and culture. The outcome of that mash up is that when conditions or objectives change, CEOs must lead through points of inflection by jump-shifting strategy, organization and operations all at the same time and all synced together. And they must change the way they lead.
The problem is that CEOs see themselves as general managers. True. Their No. 1 job is to own the vision and the values. Additionally, they must own the strategic, organizational and operating processes. Just as culture, organization and operations must be aligned with one of four over-arching strategic choices—design, produce, deliver, service—so must CEOs’ attitudes.
Best-in-class design/inventing organizations are marked by the relative independence, learning, enjoyment (and flexibility) of their specialized artistic leaders thriving with freeing support led by chief enablement officers leveraging inspiring principles.
Best-in-class producing/manufacturing organizations have cultures of stability/discipline, results and authority (and independence), hierarchies of scientific leaders operating with command and control ways of working led by chief enforcement officers leveraging strong, clear policies.
Delivery/product supply organizations have cultures of interdependence, order and safety (and stability), project/program driven matrices operating with shared responsibility led by chief enrollment officers leveraging team charters to encourage collaboration.
Best-in-class customer service/experience organizations are marked by the flexibility, purpose and caring (and interdependence) of their decentralized interpersonal leaders operating with guided accountability under the direction of chief experience officers leveraging helpful guidelines.
Framework for syncing
Do you get the point? Crossing quadrants dilutes effectiveness. Hunt down, isolate and fix anything that’s out of whack—including CEOs’ attitudes.
Think about Apple and Steve Jobs, Coca-Cola and Doug Ivester, Walmart and Sam Walton, or the Ritz-Carlton and Horst Schulze. Jobs was always looking for the next big thing.
Ivester was an ex-CFO relentlessly disciplined. Walton worked magic with logistics. Schulze oozed guest experience from every pore.
From Implicit to Explicit
To be fair, most CEOs’ attitudes are aligned with their organization. Sometimes they built the organization. Sometimes they grew up in it. Sometimes they were hired in. But if “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it eats CEOs as snacks.
The point is not so much about CEOs’ actual attitudes, but, rather, about how others understand CEOs’ attitudes. The more you know about how someone thinks and feels, the easier it is to follow them. Most CEOs implicitly guide their organizations in the right direction. They can do even better by being explicit.
They should explicitly deploy policies, guidelines and principles to prompt the level and type of employee engagement they need.
- Policy – A mandatory, definite course or method of action that all must follow – Particularly useful for disciplined, hierarchical organizations where all you need is compliance.
- Guideline – A preferred course or method of action that all should generally follow – Particularly useful for matrix or decentralized organizations where you need interdependent contributions.
- Principle – A way of thinking about actions – Particularly useful for inventive, specialized organizations putting a premium on free-thinking.
All of this is a gross oversimplification. It is not so much designed to be new thinking as it is hopefully a framework that helps others understand and implement your current best thinking.
- Clarify one overarching strategy.
- Align everything else with that strategy.
- Be explicit to be followable.