Leadership Team

What Is a Strategic Scorecard and Why Should You Care?

By Melissa Raffoni

Ask any CEO, “What is your company's strategy?" and I bet you’ll get a variety of answers depending on that person's definition of the word strategy – ranging from Michael Porter’s classic teachings on the barriers to entry, differentiation, and focused trade-offs...to Webster's basic definition of simply having a plan to achieve a particular goal.   

Define it as you will, my intent in this post is to encourage you to go beyond the definition and understand the importance of building a Strategic Scorecard to support your strategy.

What is a Strategic Scorecard? It's a document—a communication tool —that clearly lists carefully articulated strategic goals with associated measures of success and accountable owners. 

 A Strategic Scorecard is:

  • On one page

  • Built through the collaboration of the company's leadership

  • Focused on strategy not the day-to-day business operations or "business as usual" activities

  • Clever, unique and grounded in solid strategic principals aimed at helping the company to succeed in the market

  • Worked on with regular cadence during a dedicated strategy meeting

What can it do for you? A Strategic Scorecard accomplishes a lot of objectives, but three important ones include:

1)  It acts as one of the tools for building alignment and agreement among your company's leadership and appropriate level of staff.

2)  It provides a basis for communication, reflection and problem solving, inspiring questions like…Did we get the strategic goal right? Are we on track? What do we need to do differently to get on track? Should we double down? 

3)  It brings rigor and discipline to teams, helping them to focus on "working on the business" in the midst of their busy day-to-day work lives.

Creating a strong Strategic Scorecard can be a challenge for teams, but it is well worth the effort. It's key to remember that the use of the Scorecard is just one piece of building in an on-going and evolving planning, communication, and accountability process that will help your team to be more effective.  

If the effort you put in to create your Scorecard is solid, your outcome will be a clearly aligned and motivated team, a higher probability of execution success, and most importantly—stronger business results. 

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ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

Does Your Leadership Team have High Executive Function?

The Raffoni Group

Anyone with young kids has probably heard of the term “executive function.” It refers to the management of cognitive processes that includes things like working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, as well as planning and execution. You don’t need to be a psychologist to observe that kids who have strong executive function skills have an easier time in school than those who don’t.  

Kids who lack executive function skills have real trouble focusing on their work, curbing impulses, and completing tasks they start, in addition to a host of other challenges that make basic activities very challenging.  And the problem doesn’t go away as they get older; adults with weak executive function skills struggle at work and in their personal lives. If your starting to wonder if this piece is about you personally, don’t worry, it isn’t. The executive functioning we're discussing here is the kind that applies to top management teams as a whole. 

How does executive function apply to a management team? What’s interesting about the definition above is that it includes three aspects of individual cognitive ability that are equally important to any successful top team: Planning, Execution and Problem Solving.  What we’re finding more and more as we engage with clients inside and outside of the CEO Collective is that these three skills—which together comprise our concept of execution function—vary widely across organizations.

What we see is that senior teams with well-developed executive functioning skills seem to do better, a lot better, than those that lack them. The good news is that each of these subordinate skills can be developed if the top team commits to doing so. It’s not easy and there’s no quick fix. Over time however, execution functioning can be developed.  If you’re wondering how strong your team’s executive function skills are, we’ve created a series of questions within each of the three categories that leaders can use to assess their team’s overall executive function.

 1.  Does your leadership team plan effectively?

Research shows that about 60% of small to mid-sized organizations engage in formal strategic planning.  That number grows to 90% for large organizations. Moreover, most companies who engage in strategic planning do it annually, even if the planning horizon is longer than that. The annual planning process has become a key vehicle for a top team to think through important issues, set goals and actions, and chart a comprehensive course for the future. It’s vital to overall direction and alignment, which is why so many organizations do it. If your organization does engage in strategic planning ask yourself if the leadership team is effective when doing so. 

Is your leadership team highly functioning in the area of planning? Does your team:

  • Adequately prepare for planning meetings by collecting background data and supporting information?

  • Use a structured process that guides them in a way that addresses the most significant challenges facing the organization?

  • Actively engage with each other and participate in a meaningful way?

  • Challenge one another so that the very best thinking is brought to bear on the issues the company is facing?

  • Make key decisions during the process?

  • Produce an actionable plan that everyone is committed to and able to support going forward?

NOTE:  When assessing your team’s performance, it’s useful to apply a simple four-point scale:  0-poor; 1-fair; 2-good; 3-excellent.  We’ve included a summary assessment at the end of this article. 

2.  Does your leadership team execute effectively?

Planning strategy is important but getting the strategy executed is the sine qua non of high executive function leadership teams.  Some might argue that planning strategy is relatively easy and set aside a few days with a top team, engage a facilitator to guide the process, set goals and measures, align key projects, and develop a schedule for periodic review and follow up.  Completing projects, making measurable progress and ultimately achieving the documented goals is much more difficult. 

Strategy execution requires teamwork, discipline, flexibility and almost a singular focus on task completion.  When we ask top executives how may strategies fail to get implemented most respond with answers well over 50%. Not great odds but clearly odds that call for a leadership team with strong executive function skills.

Is your leadership team high functioning in the area of execution?  Does your team:

  • Possess a sense of urgency regarding accomplishing the organization’s most essential priorities?

  • Have clear roles and responsibilities relating to strategy execution?

  • Fully accept accountability for completing their strategy projects and strategic goals?

  • Align the actions of their subordinate organizations to the overall strategy?

  • Take the appropriate initiative to drive the strategy through to completion?

3. Does your leadership team effectively solve problems?

Prussian Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernard Gar Von Moltke is probably not someone you know, but his advice should be. As the architect of Germany’s Wars of Unification he is credited with saying, “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force” or, as we say today, “No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” This same can be said of strategic plans, which invariably encounter problems as soon as execution begins. It is for this reason that problem solving rounds out our set of key execution function skills. Each and every leadership team encounters problems and, if they are not looming on the horizon at present, they soon will be. High functioning executives must be able to detect problems, frame them appropriately, analyze them for purposes of generating realistic courses of action, and then choose the best one among the set of alternatives. Doing this well calls for the very best of any executive team’s abilities. 

 Can your top team effectively solve complex problems? Does your team:

  • Agree on what the biggest challenges facing the business are today?

  • Actively use business cases to analyze and communicate the specifics of major issues?

  • Think both critically and creatively in generating novel solutions to big problems?

  • Know how to analyze possible courses of action and effectively reach decisions regarding what to do?

  • Scan the operating environment regularly looking for signals that indicate disruption may be taking place?

Definitions aside, executive function is really the highest order skill that any executive team can have.  As is the case with a youngster in school, deficiencies in three areas presented above will lead to the top team creating performance issues throughout the organization. The good news is these skills can be developed if the time and investment is taken to do so. The sixteen questions below in the Executive Function Team Assessment Tool provide a good starting point.  Great leadership teams have great execution function.  There’s no reason your team shouldn’t have it as well.

>> CLICK HERE FOR A TEAM ASSESSMENT TOOL

 

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

Strategic Planning: Why Start with A CEO Presentation?

By Melissa Raffoni, Founder and CEO, The Raffoni Group

When I work with a CEO to prepare for a company’s strategic planning session, I ask him or her to create a presentation to share a vision and plan for the next cycle. The question that I’m often asked is, “Why am I presenting my views at the start of planning session? Won’t that inhibit the creativity and alignment of my senior team?”

A great question, and yes, I see how this practice could seem counter-intuitive when you are trying align your team, but I take a strong position on this approach and here’s why: 

1. It’s the CEO's role to set direction. An effective CEO is in the best position to look across the landscape, both internally and externally, to see the forest from the trees. CEOs should have a point of view that is unique and at the highest level, and ideally, the most relevant.

 2. The best leadership teams know and appreciate that it’s the CEO's role to set direction. Team members already know and believe that their CEOs have a point of view—so, why hide it? Senior teams appreciate directness, transparency and the strategic education and insight. I always circle around with teams after the CEO presentation and ask if they appreciated the talk or if they found it constraining. Without fail, 100% of the time they thank us for taking this approach.

3. Senior leadership teams love CEOs who are clear and transparent communicators. The best executives want to know what is a stake in the ground (must haves) and what is up for grabs. If they know the boundaries and are inspired, the results of the meeting will be substantially more effective. Hidden agendas are counter-productive and disheartening. They cause hesitancy and can lead to decision-turning after a team has worked hard at a recommendation or plan.

How to make the CEO Presentation most effective:

 1. Good strategy meetings require prep work from all members, including the CEO. For strategic planning to work, all members need to come to the session prepared. The CEO Presentation forces the CEO to think through important questions and find clarity around issues so he or she can speak directly about his/her vision and goals to the team. The same is expected from other team members. One of the benefits of having a strategic facilitator is that he or she can organize, gather and compile this critical prep work prior to the meeting, including assisting the CEO with his/her presentation. This gives the leadership team a “strawman” or draft to work from on the actual planning day(s). It saves precious meeting time to prepare in advance.

 2. Set the right tone. It sounds like this, “Here is my point of view. I feel strongly about these points, I’m open on these points, and I’m looking for input on these points.”  This temperament is honest, true and appreciated. It sends a message that the CEO takes his/her direction-setting job seriously, is respectful of people’s time and open to diverse opinions. 

3. Live by the tone. If you lead with the statements above, make sure you stay true to them. Integrity is everything. Be careful not to be so collaborative that you are perceived as indecisive and be careful not to be so directorial that you are perceived as not open. It’s a balancing act, but the best CEOs know this to be true and carefully plan their words to convey this effective leadership style.

 The CEO Presentation is a key element of the strategic planning offsite. It sets direction, minimizes confusion and energizes the team. When putting it together, take the time, and get it right.

Learn more about The Raffoni Group's Strategic Leaders Program.

 

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES