In a recent strategy commentary in the McKinsey Quarterly titled “Synthesis, capabilities, and overlooked insights: Next frontiers for strategists”, Fred Gluck says strategies always come from one of the three sources – strategic planning, strategic thinking and opportunistic decision making.
In the article, Gluck talks about how, while Strategic planning provides the raw material and factual basis for strategic thinking and opportunistic decision making, the real challenge is to synthesize this raw material from strategic planning into an “integrated set of actions designed to create a sustainable advantage over competitors”. One of the points that interested me was Gluck’s view of this being “the province of CEOs and their top-management teams, and the quality of the synthesis and the effectiveness of the implementation are determined by the quality of the interaction between those teams and the strategic planners.”
The general tendency is to think of strategy as a starting point flowing towards downstream execution, but that is just one part of the picture. What we overlook is how equally important it is for the execution related context such as the problems, challenges, etc. to move upstream so as to influence strategic thinking. This really is one of the essential links that could bridge the gap between strategy and result. Vision, Strategy and execution are all important, but unless they are infused into each other and pervade across the enterprise ethos and energy driving strategy as well its execution, outcomes will always fall short of expectations.
BPM Strategy and Result – The Gap
When we look at the forces and dynamics behind large BPM initiatives, this view, in my opinion, has significant relevance. Enterprise-wide decisions on BPM are often made by senior management who wear a thinking hat that is different from the hat that is worn by the teams that execute. Owing to this, we have seen outcomes from BPM initiatives that are not substantially delivering to the expectations from management. There are of course a great number of views and theories on why and how BPM benefits are elusive and challenging to achieve, but this in my view, is by far the most important.
The thinking hats of senior management and execution teams must be mutually and adequately aligned to drive successful outcomes from BPM investments. And as Gluck purports, the qualitative standing of this alignment has a direct correlation to the quality of interactions between these teams.
This is one area where I think leadership can most positively influence BPM initiatives. We have talked much about top management’s support to BPM initiatives being critical to BPM success, but that support certainly has a qualitative aspect that isn’t appreciated much nor discussed enough. Choosing the right leader to drive a BPM initiative is more crucial than having just any senior leader driving it.
The Quality of Leadership Matters
It is essential for leaders to actively engage with their teams. Leaders need to be connected with the realities and the nature of effort that goes into converting Mission to Result and more specifically, the hurdles and challenges that manifest along that path.
That is really how strategic plans drawn for BPM initiatives will result in benefits that matter – and with execution insights flowing back upstream to the top management, we will have the perfect recipe in place for continuous improvement enabling consistent competitive differentiation.