Diligent Board Member Services has just announced the appointment of former McKinsey partner Brian Stafford as chief executive. Stafford takes over from outgoing chief Alex Sodi, "who will become chief product strategy officer and remain on the board". This second part of the announcement caught me by surprise and, quite frankly, confused me.
I'm not sure I'd want to be in Stafford's shoes just now. The former chief executive is now both his boss (a director) and one of his staff. Consequently, the moral ownership of strategy implementation, and of product strategy in particular, is unclear to say the least. Why the Diligent board chose to structure the company in this way, and why Stafford agreed to the appointment given the challenges of 'above-and-below' reporting is beyond me. I can't see how this sort of anomaly is conducive to a high trust and high performance work environment.
Perhaps a 'better' approach might have been for Sodi to perform one or other of the two roles (director or strategy office), or to leave the company. If any readers have any insights as to why Diligent made these decisions, or how the new structure might add value to the business, I would love to hear them!
With my doctoral thesis now out to review (sent to my supervisors on Monday), I have decided to take a couple of days out to catch up with myself and reflect on the events of the past twelve months. I also need to start thinking about upcoming priorities because, in addition to refining the thesis based on the feedback from my supervisors, my diary contains several teaching, speaking, advisory and facilitation engagements; in New Zealand, the UK and Europe.
Amongst the engagements are several strategy development workshops, to lead boards and executive teams on a journey of discovery and critical thinking; the goal being a coherent strategy. These workshops are fun: I get to ask some searching questions and to help the participants think about the future prospects of their business. Often, we need to go back to basics, to discuss and agree what strategy is (and is not). Sadly, many managers have a predilection for detail, which means their expectations are of a highly detailed plan (more akin to an annual operating plan). The causality is pragmatism.
Thankfully, there is no need to forfeit pragmatism. If a holistic framework is used and the debate is focussed on the purpose of the company, business performance, and a set of strategic priorities to achieve the purpose, then the strategy that emerges is likely to be coherent, succinct and workable. Many frameworks and tools are available. The framework that I use is StratCross. It contains the sum of my knowledge and experience gained over fifteen or more years of helping companies create effective, winning strategies. If you'd like to know more, please get in touch.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.