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Long-term value: Improving your board’s strategy processes in 2019

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2019 at 2:40 pm

UK senior leaders with a genuine concern for long-term sustainable value will not be surprised to find boardroom discussion being dominated by strategy considerations in the next few weeks. Not just because access to European markets are uncertain but because globalisation offers interesting opportunities.

 

Boardrooms are often referent to their organisation’s concept of ‘the strategic’. Founding principles cast long shadows over senior practice and even the most mature company finds it difficult to adjust deeply persistent perspectives about value creation. Companies that collapse or lose touch with market changes can often trace the start of strategic drift to the board’s ability to give voice to early signs of consumers’ unfaithfulness. Directors wishing to signal more fundamental movements in markets will often be alert to their senior board’s ability to receive unpalatable news.

Creating a board culture that is not fragile is a matter of skilful leadership. Mature Chairpersons and CEOs will shape a strategy climate that enables early engagement with any faint signs of change. Of particular challenge is receiving signals that hint at possible changes to the structural make-up of the organisation. Again, senior figures are quite often adept at extrapolating the implications of external factors. If a closed communication culture persists it will limit important conversations and their ability to reach the board with sufficient speed for timely action.

In practical terms this means boards should assess the ‘strategy processes’ that foster a high functioning board activity. Boards are often focused on ‘strategy creation’ from within the normal agenda of regular board meetings. With the challenge that strategy dialogue can be eclipsed by the operational demands of the trading cycle. Current events put pressure on the board’s capacity to explore creatively the more subtle elements of strategic conversation.

Whether boards separate ‘strategy creation’ from ‘the business agenda’ becomes a consideration. This is dependent on the needs of the organisation but increasingly creating an open space with a different texture for strategy conversation offers the potential for spotting and protecting long-term value. This may also include pulling in a wider pool of leaders from across the organisation, including middle-management. Middle managers are acutely aware of the organisation’s change pressures but can be either enabled or restricted by their chain of command and quality of departmental/divisional communications. Giving middle-management the opportunity to ‘speak up’ within a more broad-ranging strategy process offers early insights on both internal and external factors. The assumption that regular data gathering within the organisation will provide the board with an accurate picture should be regularly tested.

The Chair has an important if not critical role to enable the CEO to create dynamic strategy processes. If the CEO becomes too intimately involved with some elements of the cycle it may restrict the quality of engagement by the wider team. Allowing line management and support staff to influence the process has value given the interdependence of organisational functions. The possibility, say, for IT strategy to more closely align to the coming demands of future trading can only be of critical concern.

Creating and enabling the above requires patience and determination by Chair and CEO. Their relationship emerges as increasingly important as global markets shift in 2019. It is possible to foster effective Chair/CEO relations that then filter down into the strategy environment. The increasing need to be both sensitive and resilient to change signals grows as markets behave with greater discontinuity. The emphasis is thrown back onto ‘strategic leadership’ and its ability to nurture a senior board who share a sincere concern for the long-term in the face often of significant short-term pressures. But these pressures are also a catalyst to set-up good strategy processes (architecture) that gives real capacity to a busy senior team who need reassurance that their insights will feed into future direction.

If you are a senior director interested in talking further about strategy process then call me on 07544 581601

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