4 Reasons Strategy Isn’t Just for Executives Anymore
Add strategy development to your mid-level leaders’ job description. Sound a little radical? Let me explain.
There are 4 reasons why you need to do this.
The environment your company is working in is probably more complex than ever. Your market has new competitors. Probably even disruptors, either known or emerging. As soon as a new technology is implemented, and sometimes before it’s fully socialized, it feels like it’s already out of date. Even though it feels out of date, it’s probably more powerful than you could have imagined five years ago so how work gets done is changing. On top of this, your customers are demanding more of you, have more information than ever before, and have more choices.
This type of environment demands responsiveness, not just tactically but also strategically. If strategy is being developed by a few people at the top, it’s difficult to respond as quickly as is needed.
Enter the mid-level leader. These roles sit at the nexus of strategy and execution. They are close enough to the market and customers to have real-time information on what’s working, what’s not, what’s percolating under the surface, and what’s on the horizon. They can more readily evaluate how the strategy is working or not. They can explore and assess new opportunities and approaches without the risk of large scale, untested change.
Here’s the rub. As a recent article in Strategy + Business says “ “Most companies have leaders with the strong operational skills needed to maintain the status quo.” I’m working with a client that is struggling with this right now. They have strong functional leaders who need to be focused strategically to reach an aggressive product launch timeline. The article continues, “But they face a critical deficit: They lack people in positions of power with the know-how, experience, and confidence required to tackle what management scientists call ‘wicked problems.’ Such problems can’t be solved by a single command, they have causes that seem incomprehensible and solutions that seem uncertain, and they often require companies to transform the way they do business.”
One necessary transformation is creating cultures and processes that allow for continual partnership between executives and mid-level leaders focused on strategy. This partnership needs to:
Want the good news? I mean, in addition to being more responsive to market pressures? Engaging your mid-level leaders in strategy is a critical development and evaluation opportunity for high potentials and your succession planning. And it can be a powerful retention lever. Of course, not every mid-level manager needs to be involved in strategy and it’s not an on/off switch. Ramp up deliberately and planfully and re-evaluate as you go.