Who owns the strategy?

Define ownership after first defining what needs to get done...

"Organize around the work, rather than force the work to conform to the organizational structure..." Jack Welch (GE).

We've applied this concept to strategy mapping.

Example strategy mindmap

Example strategy mindmap

The strategy map (above) illustrates a 3-year Vision, its supporting Initiatives, and driving Strategies. Our focus was on defining the Strategies that would drive achievement of the Vision, rather than from an organizational perspective. Our view was from the Vision - out (i.e. where the business needed to go in three years), not from the Business Unit - in.

After defining the work flow, we then assigned ownership of each cross-functional initiative. This caused the senior management team to work together and cooperate on the common goal, rather than focus inwardly within the Business Unit "silos."Note that names and details have been modified so we can present the example.

Most times this is done from the perspective of the functions (i.e. various groupings of business units). Each function is asked to develop their strategies to support the vision/initiatives. Often, these are also vaguely defined, so what you end up with is lots of PowerPoint slides that lack a lateral thread that tie the strategy actions (i.e. Programs) back to the desired visionary direction.

By ignoring the functional structure of an organization, we end up with a more pure representation of the work and process necessary to achieve a strategic objective. After we have mindmapped (with the management team of course) that strategy we then assign ownership.

This is always an interesting experience since we end up with multiple names on each Initiative and/or Strategy. We know that when more than one person is responsible for something, no one is effectively responsible. The reason we get multiple names is because the Initiatives (when developed "sans-functions") tend to be cross-functional and multi-disciplinary in scope. And who owns it when it is cross-functional?

The alternative would have been to develop the strategy from the perspective of the four functional business units, so instead of "Initiatives" coming from the Vision you would have seen four boxes representing the business units, then we would see their own Initiatives and Strategies at the third and fourth levels of the model with lots of crossing lines showing the interdependency between functions. This "white space" is typically un-managed, and it falls between the cracks. Then we have "communication" problems and lots of competitive politics at the executive level.

But in fact in this case, the Strategy was completely interconnected and cut across all four business units. Placing one senior executive on each Initiative drove cross-functional cooperation. If you really want this to stick, put these on the individual's annual performance plan and reward them for achieving them, per spec.

The second map (above) illustrates how the Programs are dispersed across the Strategies/Initiatives groups. In this example we filtered on "Group = Automation" which was one of the four functional groups (Business Units). Programs in this function touch four different Initiatives. J. Zu, who owns the Automation function also is responsible for Creating the Consulting Business. J. Zu needs to work with Smith, Lane, and John to make sure his Programs meet the requirements of their respective Initiatives.

So, when you define the process first, and then assign ownership -- you will drive cross-functional behavior. As Edwards Deming said, "People behave based on how they are measured," So measure them on their achievement of cross-functional objectives. Structuring the strategy process this way will accelerate this behavior.