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Three Hints for Creating a Unified Organizational Strategy

Posted July 12, 2013 10:10 AM by Mark Cutler

There is a great article by Adam Bryant in the July 12, 2013, New York Times that builds off Microsoft’s recent reorganization announcement to share some successful CEOs' words of wisdom on creating a unified organizational strategy.

Acknowledging that this is very difficult to do, especially within large organizations, Bryant cites three CEOs he has interviewed who shared their keys to success.  I think any organization, regardless of size, can learn a thing or two from these leaders.

First, to create a “one company” culture, Kathleen L. Flanagan, CEO of Abt Associates, eliminated senior vice president positions that led each of the lines of business and hired one executive V.P. for global business who shared her vision for “One Global Act.”  The idea was to break down the silos so people could better collaborate.  She asks people to wear two hats—their job in the company and their Abt hat, in which they have to think about the whole company.

The second tip came from Shivan S. Subramaniam, the CEO of FM Global, a commercial and industrial property insurer, and was about establishing a simple set of performance measures for the organization.  Subramaniam described how his multinational company with 5,100 employees settled on three—yes, just three—performance measures, or Key Results Areas (KRAs), for his organization: (1) Profitability, (2) Retention of existing clients, and (3) Attracting new clients.  Everybody in the organizations focuses on these three measures, everyone knows how the company is doing on these three, and everyone from senior managers to file clerks knows that “If I do this, it helps this KRA in this manner,” he said.

Finally, the last tip concerned communication.  As Drs. Kaplan and Norton say, it is critical to communicate concepts seven times in seven ways.  Christopher J. Nassetta of Hilton Worldwide discussed the emphasis he places on communication within his organization.

“You have to be careful as a leader, particularly of a big organization. You can find yourself communicating the same thing so many times that you get tired of hearing it. And so you might alter how you say it, or shorthand it, because you have literally said it so many times that you think nobody else on earth could want to hear this. But you can’t stop.”

While Bryant stated that these are three of the big challenges facing Steve Ballmer as he re-organizes Microsoft, I think these apply to any organization—large or small, nonprofit or for-profit—that is trying to implement a unified organizational strategy.