Strategy, Structure, and Roles

So much time so few results. Days and days are spent developing strategy and yet for many organizations the so-called “big picture” strategic direction remains vague and elusive to most employees. Clarity of direction is lacking, hidden behind a haze of generalizations and grand strategy statements that don’t provide meaningful direction to the realities of day-to-day operations. Alignment of organization structure and individual roles seem lost in the translation as employees, teams, departments, and divisions struggle, often at cross purposes to hit a seemingly fleeting strategic target.

In high performing organizations the strategy is clear, concise, and compelling. Think “Be Direct” or “Low Prices, Every Day” or “Customer connectivity first time, every time, anywhere.” Organization structure and individual roles align and support the strategy, designed intentionally to allow for maximum effectiveness and efficiency in creating a specific and enduring type of value for customers. Employees don’t wonder, “What is my role and what in the way of outcomes am I expected to produce?” Rather, the link between their individual roles and the strategic direction is a clear line of sight, supported by an organization structure that facilitates rather than disables action. Decision-making parameters are well known, layers are kept to a minimum, responsibilities and accountabilities are clear.

Signs of Unclear Strategy, Structure, and Roles:

  • Little awareness of the key business strategy and source of competitive advantage.
  • Weak knowledge of specific type of customer value to be created (quality, speed, service, price/cost, innovation).
  • Blurry line of sight from employees to customers.
  • Teams/departments work at cross purposes.
  • Confusion about roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities.
  • Numerous levels between the front line and executive team.
  • Meandering decision making loops, approvals, and sign offs.
  • Structure does not reflect the reality of work process flows and how customers interact with the organization.
  • Designing the organization structure and individual roles from the inside out.

Keys to Strategy, Structure, and Role Clarity:

  • Keep it simple, clear, and compelling.
  • Make strategy visible through tools like The Balanced Scorecard or Strategy Maps.
  • Communicate consistently, frequently, and creatively.
  • Design from the outside in with intent.
  • Promote and practice heavy employee involvement in strategy development, structural redesign, and role definition.
  • Know what drives customer value and align organization structure and roles accordingly to what best supports delivery of that value.
  • Make sure everyone can easily answer this question: “Do I know clearly what is expected of me, in my role?”
  • Minimize the number of structural levels — flatten don’t fatten.
  • Focus on serving customers or serving those who do serve customers.
  • Study, understand, and optimize the horizontal process of serving customers with the vertical management structure.

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