Strategic Clarity (and Alignment)
Strategic clarity is a product of strategic thinking; it’s the ability to define, communicate, adapt, and effectively implement a company’s business strategy. Aligning members of the leadership team is critical to bringing a strategy to life and keeping the team focused on what the outcome should be.
“Within an organization, executive leadership teams sometimes fail to recognize that if they don’t fully support each other’s departmental initiatives, the team can’t achieve its common goal,” Jacobs says. “Clarifying the strategy and their role in it makes all the difference. If a team’s energy and resources aren’t flowing the same way, in most organizations, the dollars won’t be flowing the same way either.”
For example: one of Jacobs’ clients recognized they needed to upgrade their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, a decision that would benefit the business but would require a significant investment of time, energy, and resources upfront.
The COO led the 18-month effort, and every member of the leadership team had to work in lockstep to streamline operational functions. For HR, that required heavy-duty recruiting, for finance it meant working with banking partners to ensure the right tools and financing were available. Sales and marketing had to reenter data correctly. By the end of the 18 months, every leader had spent approximately 20% additional time making sure that the COO’s initiative succeeded, and the ERP implementation was effective.
How does “extra mile” teamwork like that happen? As an OD consultant, Jacobs facilitates to align the team around the strategic objective and gain their commitment and buy-in to the process. In sum: it’s about people and process.
“Leadership teams are typically stretched for resources and have more on their plate than they can likely accomplish – adding more is not a welcomed idea. Aligning the team is critical, and in this instance, accepting that the ERP implementation supported the goals of the business was essential. The next step was building a list of deliverables to ensure accountability. This approach underscores the idea that as a member of the executive team, you’re representing the organization at large – and you can do that while maintaining your expertise within your department.”
Business leaders are striving for improved efficiency to realize better business outcomes. Partnering with an outside consultant to facilitate change will uncover areas for improvement related to key functions of the business. But one way executives may not be expecting to find efficiency is how they work together as a leadership team, and that can begin with executive team meetings.
Leadership teams need meetings that make progress, and good facilitation can make this possible. A skilled facilitator will outline an effective process, develop group norms, cultivate full participation, and guide the discussion to move strategies forward and get results.
Says Jacobs: “It’s important to keep things on track and a well-planned agenda is essential. It’s also critical to establish some expectations upfront. So often leadership meetings become people staring at their own cell phones and listening only to what they think matters to them. Having somebody there who is actively working to create (perhaps unpopular, but) productive group norms, like leaving cell phones at the door, does help. It creates efficiency, and it also helps the team form a stronger bond. I’m very comfortable giving the floor to someone who is less vocal. I force participation around the table. That’s important because then you bring awareness of whatever topic that you’re hearing about through the lens of everyone around the table, not just the loudest voice.”
An outside consultant’s detachment, coupled with their expertise, helps manifest these improvements for the betterment of the organization.
What Outcomes to Expect?
The benefits to an executive team of partnering with an OD consultant are tangible, and so are the business outcomes. In his national best-seller, The Advantage, author Patrick Lencioni offers a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage that organizational health provides.
The book posits that an organization is “healthy” when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. Lencioni says healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion, and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave.
Jacobs concurs: “I think companies stay more focused, are more timely in their deliverables and more successful in their change initiatives when they make organizational development expertise part of their leadership team. They enjoy improved decision making. We catch things that would have fallen through the cracks. We also gain respect for one another’s differences – we begin to actively see and develop a better understanding of each person’s responsibilities within the organization.”
In addition to better business outcomes, succession planning is often streamlined. “Being embedded in leadership team meetings makes it very clear who the leaders in the room are, and who they aren’t. Both scenarios are okay but being present drives efficiency and ensures we’re in a better position to make the right choices regarding people and roles.”
Checklist for Choosing an OD Consultant
If your leadership team is considering partnering with an expert in organizational development on your executive leadership team, following are several traits to look for in making the best match:
- Breadth of business experience
- Willing to immerse to understand your marketplace
- Ability to assess organizational health
- Facilitation skills to hold the team accountable
- Comfortable delivering messages people don’t want to hear
“I would look for a seasoned organizational development executive that understands the market or is curious about your marketplace,” says Jacobs. “They don’t have to understand your industry specifically, but they have to have a real understanding how to keep talent, how to recruit talent, and how to measure whether your team is being fully utilized. They’ll need a strong emotional intelligence quotient, too, to be as comfortable talking to people on the line as in the board room. I always take the stance that the organization itself has hired Ironside, the entity is my customer, no one leader is my customer. I think that’s what’s made me successful in the consulting role.”
In terms of “watch outs,” Jacobs offers these:
- While HR/OD is their personal expertise, the consultant must fully embrace the whole business – every function, everyone on the team – with equal comfort and without functional bias.
- They should speak for the entity and be careful not to become another voice/vote for the CEO.
- And, they should not don’t let sales take over – growth is more than year-over-year sales, especially in a privately-held company.
“When you decide that your team’s health is worth the investment,” says Jacobs, “partnering with an organizational development consultant can be a game changer for leaders of small and privately held companies striving to improve efficiency, build a leadership pipeline, and improve performance across the organization.”
For more information on best practices to ensure the strong organizational health, contact Ironside & Associates here.
MINI RSH CASE STUDY SECTION
Among the nation’s leading surgery center management and development companies, and the most experienced company offering physician/hospital ASC joint venture partnerships, Regent Surgical Health has evolved its model to keep pace with market demands.
Three years ago, Regent acquired surgery centers one at a time. Now, the ASC strategy leader partners with a hospital and brings on three or four at a time.
“The market changed so our business develop approach had to evolve – and so did our team,” says Regent CEO Chris Bishop. “Julie brings a level of expertise that is unmatched. She’s a trusted partner, unflappable under stress, and one of our secret weapons. She has helped facilitate change that would have taken us much longer to achieve on our own. She has helped align our team to deliver on our promise of sustainable profitability while enabling physician partners to maintain clinical autonomy and financial control.”