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Leadership cohesion is not simply a matter of agreeing strategy. It requires collaboration, initiative, innovation and anticipation.
How joined up is your leadership team? Yes I know that you all sat around the table when the strategy was agreed and you probably all nodded your heads when the talk moved on to values and competencies; but are you all really trying to deliver that strategy in a cohesive form?
There’s no ‘of course’ about it. In fact when it comes to delivering a cohesive strategy one of the major failure points is the way in which each member of the leadership team translates the strategy into their own departmental needs. And it’s all very well saying that leadership starts at the top but when the top table is fragmented then the only result is infighting and confusion further down the organisation.
Admittedly, you may not see it like that; each individual member of the top team may believe they are working to deliver the strategy. But there is a vast gulf between agreeing that you want the organisation to move in a particular direction and working with your teams to ensure that the end goal is assimilated into every decision and every process.
Prioritising customer service
Let’s look at a very simple example. The executive team have met and have agreed that over the next year customer service has to be a priority. So the message goes out that customer service and customer excellence come before everything else. The sales and customer relationship teams love this and instantly go out talking to customers about product improvements, new products which customers might like to see and preferred methods of delivery.
As responses flow in from customers the sales team starts to put pressure on the product development and IT teams, expecting them to deliver new products and new ways of working and new interactive platforms, all in the name of customer excellence. These departments may have already been working on their own ideas and the added pressure puts a strain on resources resulting in ongoing maintenance not being given the priority which it once had. Glitches start appearing in the system and service delivery actually falls.
The result is that call goes out for more IT and development support people, drawing HR and training into the mix. Now they have already been working on their own ideas. The training team have put together a great customer relationship programme which they intend to make compulsory for everyone in the organisation, taking teams and departments away from the office in order to boost customer service appreciation.
In the meantime, HR have come up with a new way of time tracking which takes into account activity spent on customer service initiatives. Of course, they do require the IT department to put a new program in place and it will involve everyone in the organisation in completing daily returns but at the end of the day HR will be able to report time taken on customer initiatives back to their department head. As for all these extra staff which IT and development say they need; well HR believe that a department reshuffle, moving roles and responsibilities around, should free up some spare capacity.
Of course all these new initiatives cost money so the accountancy team is busy putting together a project analysis system which will enable them to allocate costs and identify potential savings through rescheduling resources. Admittedly that will require the IT team to put together another program and people will have to analyse their work streams in a different way but of course it is all worth it in the name of customer service.
Great initiatives – worsening service
Where have we got to? In a nutshell, worse service than before. Customers are being promised improvements which can’t be delivered, service levels are falling, interdepartmental pressure is rising and employees are facing reshuffle and restructure allied to the completion of numerous extra reports on a daily basis.
Joined up thinking, leadership cohesion is not simply a matter of agreeing strategy. It requires care and thought and structured implementation. More importantly, it requires everyone to work together to anticipate consequences and to ensure that every action has an outcome which delivers the overall strategy. Whatever your vision, don’t shatter it on the anvil of action before thought. Instead, put aside departmental differences, deliver joined up leadership and collaborate for success.