Doing Strategy Well in the Context of Change

Professional business development & improvement strategies

Recently CCG gave a keynote presentation to a group of senior executives who are struggling with the appropriate response to strategy implementation in their organisation.  We were struck by the importance of three key change concepts that delegates repeatedly asked questions about during Q&A.

We are convinced that these elements are key to the success of large-scale change and strategy implementation: Leadership, Communication and Structure.

1. Leadership

There is much written about the importance of leadership in the context of change, and we should know all the good reasons for this.  We would like to use this space to talk about the specifics of how to deploy and position leadership appropriately for an enterprise or divisional level change programme.

a. Project Sponsor: Each project requires a single person to hold authority and accountability for the programme to internal and external stakeholders.  CCG’s view is that this person should either be the CEO or divisional head.  The seniority of the person holding this role is key because there will be times (usually during crisis when leadership is needed most) when a single person with sufficient credibility and positional power will be required to stand up on behalf of a project, argue its merits, explain its rationale, sign off on additional budget, and manage naysayers.  This is most critical in the context of senior internal stakeholders (members of C-Suite or Exco) or external stakeholders (Board, unions, stakeholder communities, government, state institutions), and particularly at moments when the longevity or purpose of a programme might be questioned.

b. Project Lead: This is usually a C-Suite/Exco member, or divisional head (in the context of a divisional programme), who has ultimate line management authority for a programme and who is institutionally responsible (usually to the CEO) for the success (or otherwise) of the programme.  Their role is to manage tasks, budgets and timelines on a day-to-day basis, and to report on progress, risks and achievements to organisational structures not directly involved in the programme.  It is imperative that this person is highly change attuned, committed to the programme and has a high level of institutional credibility and status.

c. Project Board: We would strongly advise that you appoint an overall governing structure to manage the day-to-day task of running a large-scale programme.  We would suggest that this structure is populated with 8-10 delegates, who represent as diverse a cross-section of the organisation as possible.  Diversity of representation at a Project Board level will ensure that a myriad of personal and professional networks will be activated across the organisation and support what we refer to as “viral” change.  This approach supports communication, support for the project and interaction around employee concerns and recommendations.

2. Communication

There are a tremendous number of articles and books written on the role and importance of communication in the context of change.  We are told ad nauseam that we must communicate with our people, and communicate more and more.  And of course we do this, by way of emails and posters and flyers and workshops and town hall meetings.

And all of this is good.  EXCEPT: Often we are not communicating in a dialogic or conversational fashion, and as a result  we don’t necessarily know what is really on people’s minds.  We also often don’t give employees a chance to speak (particularly to leadership in large format events) in a manner that allows for thoughts and feelings to be expressed, heard, digested and responded to.

The lesson: We need to provide more opportunities for employees at all levels of an organisation going through a change programme, to meet together in a way that allows for two-way conversation and solution making.

This is not always easy or practical to do, but if we want to run successful change initiatives, it is imperative that we seek out appropriate solutions and technologies to achieve this result (and we do have such facilitated techniques that can support us in this regard).

3. Structure

(The other possible heading here is Whether or Not a Model or Methodology is Necessary.  And the answer is Most Certainly Yes!)

There are many, many change and strategy implementation models in the marketplace and you should choose one that suits your organisation, but that you should choose one!  Particularly when dealing with enterprise or divisional level programmes with lots of moving parts and people, it is imperative to have a structure within which to map the implementation journey and to keep a sense of where you are at during planning and delivery.

Change and strategy implementation is an exceedingly complex process.  Unfortunately within management science and professional practice we do not have a good track record of doing this organisational activity well, but that does not preclude us to learning from the past and building better professional practice for the future.

Albeit brief (given the challenge of this medium and because change is an inherently active process that requires engagement and dialogue to accomplish well) we hope these notes will help in this difficult and exciting area of professional practice.  In forthcoming weeks we will attempt to flesh each of these areas out in more detail.