In my experience, strategy is about building new enterprise capabilities – new capabilities that, when brought to market, can unlock new revenue streams, help optimize cost, and drive margin expansion. Great leaders know how to activate strategy across thousands of people, various geographies, and disparate functions. More specifically, these leaders know how to align their leadership teams, rally thousands of employees around a common direction capturing their hearts and minds, build the capabilities needed to win, and ensure alignment of goals, organizational structure, business processes, and incentives. And they keep doing all this on a continuous basis. The ability to activate strategy at scale is a capability in and of itself, and we’d be hard pressed to identify a capability more important within an enterprise. Yet, all too often the strategy is developed with the brightest few, signed off on by the board of directors, and given to communications to “communicate it,” often via a town hall these days.
While this activation approach may be necessary it’s not sufficient to drive the change in mindset and capabilities leaders seek. The best leaders I’ve had the fortune of working with over the years, fully appreciate this reality and operate with a common set of beliefs around what’s required to activate strategy within their enterprise.
What the strategy activation leader believes:
- They believe candor and authenticity are essential ingredients to an effective strategy definition, and they create an environment within their leadership team and their extended leadership team where truth is an expectation of leadership.
- They believe in the power of stories, and all leaders need to be able to evangelize a shared narrative across their functions and teams. They see it as their job to help build leadership clarity and conviction in this narrative. And when gaps exist, they don’t say they don’t get it. They commit to more time, listening, and dialogue.
- They believe strategy activation lives and dies with the key leaders who sit between the C-suite and the front line. The leaders who must live in two worlds: a world that operates in the business driving performance minute by minute, and a world that operates on the business trying to drive the performance of the future. And they spend significant time building advocacy with these leaders.
- They know that while strategy might be an intellectual pursuit with their board of directors, it’s way more emotional with the rest of the enterprise. In turn, they realize capturing the hearts and minds of their people doesn’t start or end with concepts like multiple expansion.
- They believe the capability development required to execute strategy isn’t just something to delegate to HR to deal with. Instead, it’s a core and ongoing agenda item for the C-Suite to drive and own.
The world’s best strategy activation leader intuitively lives by these beliefs and knows they’re no longer measured by their individual brilliance but by their ability to serve others by shifting mindsets and building capabilities across the enterprise. In a world where strategies within an industry are more common than different, it’s the strategy activation leader who’s often the difference between top-quartile and bottom-quartile performance.
Brad Haudan is Managing Director, Accenture, and President, Root, a part of Accenture with over 20 years of experience and expertise working with G2000 executive teams on leadership alignment and successful strategy activation.