May 29, 2019
Let’s assume you’ve worked through your strategic imperatives with decisive prioritization, calling out what you clearly will and will not invest in for the next 12-18 months, as part of your 3-year (+) aspirations.
From those few decisive strategic imperatives, you have an execution mandate for both in-year initiatives and multi-year executions. Typically, at least a portion of those imperatives requires significant changes or new processes within your operations.
In the throes of embracing change, many C-suite executives mistakenly believe line managers will execute that change in addition to their day jobs. But they rarely do this well. Not for a lack of trying, knowledge, or capability; rather, your best general managers have too many irons in the fire to dive in and solve the inherent ad-hoc issues and on-the-go solutioning necessary for expedient execution. Furthermore, other functional leads may not be able to deliver on adoption and/or compliance (e.g., Your Sales team may not listen well to a Finance leader or General Counsel who’s mapped to their change imperative).
For this reason, HighPoint is an advocate of employing functionally responsive, hybrid strategy-execution teamlets as a vehicle for efficient, modular and scalable, and actively managed execution, yielding quicker adoption path design, rollout, and scaling.
If you’re asking yourself what is a strategy-execution teamlet, that may be symptomatic of how undervalued this agile change management and initiative acceleration tool really is.
Simply put, a strategy-execution teamlet is a pair of pragmatic, execution-oriented athlete(s) embedded within the right Business Unit or function, who can partner with local operations on a change initiative acceleration, ensuring 100% adoption. Typically, the teamlet consists of:
1) A Hybrid Strategic Project Execution Leader, one who brings both meaningful operating experience and strategy/solutioning experience to the table.
This role typically includes:
- Initiative solutions assessment (What are the change execution solution details, and what is their adoption path?)
- Rollout design, including any pilot testing oversight (How do you build early adoption for refinement, with clear wins?)
- Driving the scaleup (What change management program, implementation roadmap, and KPIs / measures?)
2) An Execution Process Manager, a project management-experienced associate well-versed in execution and change, either from a versatile cross-functional or consulting background.
This role typically includes:
- Actively manages daily/weekly project schedule
- Administers initiative execution, post-design implementation and co-owns targeted implementation and change management with BU/functional leaders
- Shares initiative-specific status, issues/resolution, and reporting with Corporate PMO
Very often, the Execution Process Manager above is drawn from within the company. Following the scale-up of the specific initiative, HighPoint has seen successful teamlets rotate this Manager into the Business Unit or Function they supported.
Often firms will deploy multiple execution teamlets on a 1:1 basis against their most important change initiatives, and include a separate, objective PMO lead to oversee both teamlet-supported and other essential strategic imperative execution. That deployment can look like either of the following options, depending on the number of execution teamlets.
Common Strategy-Execution Teamlet and Program Management Options
In Option 1 (above left), alongside a Corporate PMO lead, there is a two-person Execution Teamlet, dual reporting into both the COO / C-level execution lead and the relevant Business Unit / Functional Leader whose organization is most impacted by the change initiative. This setup works well when there is just one or two execution teamlets, and the senior leadership can find time to manage down in key situations. The separate PMO point objectively reports on teamlet-supported and other initiatives.
In Option 2 (above right), you also have multiple Execution Teamlets, but those teamlets report into a span-breaker for the COO / C-level execution lead. This Full Program Lead / Program Office head takes on oversight of both the PMO Point and the execution teamlets, providing some leverage for the COO, given the multiple execution initiatives underway.
This potent teamlet model – with an internal / external hybrid mix, has been most effective in driving initiatives quickly and effectively in partnership with key sponsors. Moreover, they are particularly impactful in organizations that have multiple, if not many, strategic imperatives.
While the benefits of either of the above teamlet structures are many, we’ve narrowed down the top reasons HighPoint regularly implements this approach with our clients:
Teamlets are not only effective but also efficient.
Strategy-execution teamlets can be a good fit for mid-sized firms and other entities with thin budgets. Rather than assigning a full consulting team or internal tiger team, one can draw on two team members from both external and internal pools. We’ve seen this lean-and-mean structure steer execution as effectively as larger options, and with the added benefit of inculcating the Execution Process Manager in the Business Unit(s) most impacted by the change.
Teamlets are also a practical training ground for internal roles. Once the teamlet has successfully achieved its assigned goals, a teamlet manager will have a deeper understanding of the organization as a whole, functional operations, and the strategic imperatives it’s been setting up for rollout. This means s/he can often seamlessly assume a senior position within the organization to maintain effective change momentum and ensure compliance, with fewer disruptions and handoffs.
They’re modular and scalable.
Depending on the number of strategic imperatives you’re looking to accelerate, one can choose to activate a single or multiple strategy-execution teamlet/s. If budgets are lean, you may start with a single execution teamlet on your top 1-2 initiatives, then as initiatives rollout, quickly re-assign the same teamlet to the next highest priority initiative acceleration.
Our experience has shown that the ROI on this modular approach becomes readily visible, and the model ultimately builds to Option 2 (above) as companies gain execution momentum around their top imperatives.
And teamlets are actively managed.
The dual-reporting structure of the strategy execution teamlet – both to the COO / C-level execution sponsor and to the relevant Business Unit / Functional leader – ensures a higher level of visibility, and where warranted, involvement in on-the-go-solutioning, compared to a static PMO’s reporting for the senior team. This has led to more rapid execution realization, and also closer relationships between key sponsors and the change initiative team, which then reinforces change communications.
Compare this to a discrete external initiative strategy team or an entirely-isolated-within-the-Business-Unit team, and you are missing either Business Unit or corporate-level connectivity to the change. The combination of the strategy-execution teamlet solutioning, and PMO active and objective reporting, are an effective and visible accelerator.
If your business has been unable to effectively execute key strategic imperatives, and would like to test an alternative method of rolling out change / process acceleration within your organization, leave comments about the above model. We want to hear from you!
Justin Moser is COO of HighPoint Associates, a strategy consulting firm headquartered in El Segundo, CA. Previously, Justin served as Group CFO and SVP at Mattel over its global commercial finance, brand finance, FP&A, and Investor Relations functions, and headed its North American Online / Amazon Sales and Corporate Strategy teams. He began his career as a Consultant with Bain & Company.