In Creating Strategic Teams, Boards and CEOs Need To Be On The Same Page

Over time, the nature of the executive suite has evolved in terms of strategic and operational roles along with the work to be done. The design of senior leadership and management teams has become more focused on matching the company’s strategic agenda, talent platforms, and cultural agenda. While that may sound obvious, the struggle for senior executive traction is real: most organizations report serious concerns with strategy engagement and strategic leadership.

Strategic teams can be viewed as agents of making strategy happen, equipped with capable, well-matched talent, reflected in corporate culture that is a foundation for and an expression of standards, values and principles. While there are, perhaps, 20-plus kinds of strategic teams, at the enterprise level, the focus here is corporate challenges related to enterprise:

• Growth and Adaptation

• Performance Edge and Advantage

• Change and Advancement

Those involved with forward planning and decision making gather their knowledge, perspective and judgment through team efforts that inform strategy direction, integration and execution. Strategic team conversations inform risk management and problem solving, and they bring focus to the cause-and-effect imperatives for making strategy happen.

Board Attention: Strategic Teams and Their Focus

Governing boards are naturally focused on the work plans and charters of the CEOs they hold responsible for the creation of strategic and economic value. Given the nature of organizations today, have a powerful interest in the caliber of strategic teams that are designed and equipped to advance the work of making strategy happen.

The functional experience, temperament, subject matter expertise and engagement of strategic team leaders shape the everyday thought and behavior of their combined team members. Strategic teams can express a focus on compliance and standards. They can show a collective knack for integration. They can also present a capacity for exploration, discovery and innovation. Strategic teams with a more dual-dynamic focus are better equipped to find the balance of near-term and long-term concerns, along with evolving core business, versus adjacent business development themes.

When designing teams to work as agents of making strategy happen, the CEO and the board needs to be on the same page with the answers to three questions. This requires ongoing strategic conversation, regular debate, constructive skepticism, insight management, perspective and the open exchange of ideas that address the everyday work of making strategy happen.

• Does the enterprise have a valid and intentional Strategic Agenda, one that effectively engages, connects and conveys strategy direction, integration and execution?

• Does the CEO demonstrate that the assigned Talent Platforms and Resources of the organization, the talent supply chains … are matched with the Strategic Agenda?

• Does the enterprise have a purposeful and interactive Cultural Agenda that serves well as a foundation for, and an expression of, the evolving Strategic Agenda?

What About Those High-Performing Strategic Teams?

The modern organization’s work to be done is naturally dependent on teams. Teams have become the backbone of enterprise structure, across the landscape of the business world. But what makes some teams better, smarter, stronger or faster than others? Who serves on these teams? How do these teams become better than the sum of their individual parts? What enables, motivates and engages people on teams? These and other questions are part of the overall Strategic Team design and development journey.

High-performance teams are built with context, and with attention to purpose. They are thoughtfully designed, thoughtfully assigned, and take into consideration resources, functions, priorities, needs and challenges. They exhibit higher levels of engagement, because they are built on diverse experiences, discretionary effort, project commitments and other devices. High engagement also reflects in systems thinking, collaboration, interpersonal respect and influence, and a practical sense of order and arrangement. These are key elements of strategic team readiness and resolve that comes together at different stages in the crucible of experience.

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Daniel Wolf is President, Dewar Sloan: Consultants and Advisors to Boards and Executives. Mr. Wolf heads the strategy and governance practice of Dewar Sloan, focusing on growth, performance and change issues. Brooke Felger is Associate Project Manager, Dewar Sloan SC/24 Research on Strategic Teams. Ms. Felger supports the SC/24 Program at Dewar Sloan with research on enterprise strategy, organization development, cultural challenges and resource development.