Saturday, August 8, 2015

How to Help Functional Managers Think in a more Strategic Way?

 Organizations have personalities in the same way that an individual does.

Bandaid or quick fixing are commonplace in management. The ability to operate in this mode to find and implement a quick solution is often rewarded because it is so visible. This quick solution is very focused on the specific problem, so the broader picture and potential impact on other things are not explored. However, such short-term focus mentality will stifle innovation and damage the organization’s long-term strategic execution. As business executives or strategists, how can you help all functional leaders or managers think in a more strategic way? How to run an organization that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces?

Business strategists need to help functional managers understand the benefits of taking a broader view before jumping into action. In many business environments that are due to 'the system' making a virtue of the ability to 'fire-fight,' and be very responsive to very short notice inputs. Because this has been 'the way we do business around here' for so long, it appears that many folks simply don't know what 'good' looks like when it comes to thinking in terms of the longer and broader picture and, even less, how to do it. This sort of mentalities and behaviors not only come from functional managers, even from senior executives. Hence, it’s a hard slog dragging these folks to the water when trying to get them to think strategically. So business strategists have to work through with the senior executive team by trying to build a future state blueprint for their improvement program, to create a target to focus effort and valuable resource. If this can become a habit of replacing the adrenaline rush to fight the fire, it would be more advantageous in the long run. Another approach is to sell the benefits of thinking more broadly before jumping into actions, in terms that will grab their attention (maybe about cost efficiency, increased profit, bigger market share, or just 'making tomorrow better than today').

Organizations have personalities in the same way that an individual does. Most often, an organization's personality replicates the personality of its leader, and that the personalities of the leadership drive the culture of the organization. It can be very disruptive for employees to find themselves under a change of leadership even though their job descriptions have not changed at all. There are different mentality either by nature or through training; some people may mentally be "planners" while others naturally "shoot from the hip." The ones that shoot from the hip tend to leave the plans on the shelf and never use them while planners value the effort and thinking that went into that plan and ensured it is regularly used as a living document. In organizations that tend to "shoot from the hip," there is a lack of strategic and tactical plans for problem-solving or the plan is written on high without employee participation. All too often, plans are written and stuck on a shelf. The result is an absence of guidance in daily problem-solving. The most effective use of a plan of any kind is as a discussion driver. It doesn't even matter if it turns out the plan is all wrong for the company. By having discussions about the plan at all levels of the company, people learn how best to work together to serve the customer. Without that discussion, it may never be recognized that a plan is not workable. Every time an idea comes up, those who have been taught this process, work through the questions. It results in one or more people in the conversation-facilitating both strategic and systems considerations of the idea. The use of open questions is very powerful. For example, exploring how the idea aligns with the organization's vision and key strategies. Then looking at what impact it might have in a few year's time. And exploring what impact the idea is likely to have on other stakeholders - internal and external.

The best way to avoid the leadership gap is to have every employee write a section of the plan that pertains to their particular area of expertise. Building a business concept, developed in the company by top executives. It should be simple, well done, and thought thoroughly while in construction. Everyone should know what it is for. Use it as a filter to evaluate initiatives. Refer to the business concept for guidance. They need to codify who their "suppliers" and "customers" are both inside and outside the company, by writing their personal business plans and communicating that plan to their "suppliers" and "customers," they help to ensure that everyone they do business with on a daily basis understands how to issue resolution affects them.
1) Encouragement: Push and encourage yourself and others to "think in bigger boxes" (think outside of your job description and consider company and industry and even societal impacts).
2). Creativity: Assume that every problem has multiple solutions and ask yourself and others for "three ways we might address this issue." (One may be much better than the others, but push for multiple solutions.)
3). Multidimensional thinking: Take the time to look at every situation from multiple points of view (customer POV, supplier POV, management POV, etc.).

It is important to train your managers and people think more critically, strategically, and systematically. Strategic and Systems Thinking generally, if not always, strive to find a simple solution. Critical thinking is also an important skill to have in this rapidly changing business environment. Recognizing the changing trends and needed corrections to a strategic plan is a huge asset to a company. Business leaders and strategists need to present a profound and clear example of how to gauge an individual's thinking style quickly and effectively. Functional managers have to think “big,” to understand that the business as a whole is more superior to any function, and employees should understand how they create value, and it will motivate many people and make them feel more engaged with their work.


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