One of the cool things about consulting is that you get to see a lot, take a lot of notes, gather insights, and take those insights to your clients to help them grow their business.
Over the past 15-plus years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with over 100 Fortune 2000 clients (108 to be exact – yes, I counted), helping them execute their strategies through their people. In layman’s terms, that means we work with executives to align on strategy; engage the workforce in the why, what, and how of the strategy; and help build the skills and capabilities required to execute the strategy.
When I started in 2005, my customer was often the chief human resources officer, and the strategy office served as my one-stop shop to procure any of the data needed to tell the story of the strategy. The strategy office was the group with the intelligence that was often under lock and key. In the mid-2000s, those in the strategy office I engaged with often paid little attention to our engagements, and the function was usually filled with bright analytic minds who spend 90% of their time on data and insights and 10% of their time thinking about implementation.
The Strategy Function is Changing
Today, in my highest-performing clients, I’m seeing a very different strategy function than I did 15 years ago. The role of the function and the talent within the function has and is continuing to evolve. In fact, more often than not, the strategy function is co-sponsoring our engagements because their role is not only to help define strategy, but also to create clarity and conviction for the strategy, from the board to the c-suite down to the front line. The best chief strategy officers I engage with today are not only analytically brilliant, but they are also world-class storytellers and architects of change plans to evolve culture or build new organizational capabilities.
I expect this trend to continue because data will continue to become more accessible, and frankly, many corporate strategies at the industry level aren’t that differentiated. Therefore, especially in mature markets, it will be the execution of the strategy that differentiates firms in the marketplace. I envision a strategy function in the future that is filled with an eclectic mix of talent: researchers, storytellers, change architects, culture experts, and capability builders. And what 15 years ago was often a staff function that provided data and insights to the c-suite will in the future be one of the key engines for business growth and shareholder value.