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Seizing Control of Your Strategy

Posted October 24, 2012 10:44 PM by Mark Cutler

As I was listening recently to a client leadership team discuss the merits of “publishing” a high-level description of their strategy, I couldn’t help but think about the importance of the environment in which organizations operate and how different organizations can react differently to similar environments because of the attitude they have.

Here was the leadership team of a large department of a federal government agency discussing the pros and cons of publishing their high-level strategy document.  Those arguing against publication raised the concern that many other organizations “above” them in the hierarchy would take exception to the client publishing the strategy without their input.  They felt that without providing enough detail – which was still being worked on for later release – it would create more questions than it would answer and would cause the other government organizations to start giving direction where they thought it was needed.

Those in favor of publication argued, “It’s our strategy! If we can’t develop it and publish it without ‘approval’ of other governmental entities, why do we bother developing a strategy at all?”  They felt it was a way of asserting themselves, without necessarily thumbing their noses at their leadership.

The decision was ultimately made to not publish the strategy until all of the supporting documentation and plans were complete.  For this organization, this may very well have been the right decision.  However, it was an interesting contrast to the approach taken by another client.

This second client was in a similar, but not identical, situation and handled it in a completely different manner.  Again, this client is a large department within a large mission-driven organization.  It had become known that the organization’s leadership was interested in possibly rolling out the Balanced Scorecard across the entire enterprise.  Before they did this, however, they wanted to “pilot” it in one particular unit.

Everyone knew that the one “pilot” unit – our client – would be under a lot of scrutiny as it tried to get it right. As I was sitting listening to first client, I thought to myself how that team would never have accepted, never mind volunteered for, the chance to be the pilot.  Where our first client probably saw lots of downside risk, this client only saw opportunity.

The leader of the unit sold the Balanced Scorecard project to his team as the opportunity to pave the way for the rest of the organization.  Rather than worrying about potentially being told how to implement the project by his superiors, he saw it as the opportunity to tell them the best way to do it – to share his best practices and lessons learned – and to get the rest of the organization to follow his unit’s lead since they would be the only ones with experience.

For one client, transparency and scrutiny only meant trouble.  For the other, it meant power and opportunity.

Filed Under Balanced Scorecard