Working with CEOs through leveraged coaching to develop strategic thinking and capability in senior teams

Most executives in most businesses and organisations spend much of their time, understandably and appropriately, focusing on near term performance drivers to achieve commercial goals. It is also appropriate for the senior leadership team to consider and develop key strategic initiatives for the longer-term ambitions of the organisation.

We believe the value in forming a clear and collective view of the desired future state of the organisation in a reasonable level of detail, is about driving ‘better decisions today’.

This results in not only better decisions in isolation, but also a set of decisions that is superior in aggregate and over time, because it has the benefit of coherence and alignment across the senior team.

In-sourcing or out-sourcing ‘strategy’?

For the strategy to yield a superior outcome over time, in our view, the executive team must own the strategy options and outcomes, rather than ‘outsource’ that.

There are many reasons why working with external consultants can be helpful to support the strategy process, including: independent rigour and challenge; production of factbase analysis, application of proven frameworks and tools to drive insight; speed of delivery to analyse and develop growth strategy options; strategy workshop facilitation and subsequently robust development of key strategic initiatives.

However, the traditional way of working with consultants (i.e. for the management team to brief them on the strategy challenge and then evaluate responses) risks generating limited engagement and ownership across the senior team and limited buy-in to the recommendations.

Also, what if the senior team has limited experience of strategic management?

An approach that we deliver is one of partnership, working closely with, ideally as an extension of, the leadership team. This ensures a thorough understanding of the business for the advisors, but more importantly, it exposes strategic thinking and practice to the senior leadership team.

This is of particular help in newly formed and emerging teams who may not have worked on strategic challenges and processes. It helps develop (and challenge) individual and team capability and skills, balancing strategic and daily performance delivery requirements.

Jo Whitehead, in his book ‘What you need to know about strategy’, comments: “A common challenge for up and coming executives is the need to broaden their skills in strategy. On the plus side, these executives are often highly experienced and have a strong intuitive understanding of certain strategic issues. However, while they may be familiar with a range of tools and models, they often lack a framework within which to structure their thoughts, and the experience of being involved in creating strategy”.

There are situations where established senior teams may not have experience, or in some cases, the capability to address strategic issues. It is often said that an ‘A’ team can develop and implement almost any strategy, but a ‘B’ team may struggle.

Leveraged coaching can help link strategic management and capability development

Our partnership approach helps support both developing and established teams, and creates an enhanced short and long term benefit for the client organisation as it develops its people, capabilities and talent.

Such leveraged coaching is not new but does not seem to be common in strategic management, especially not with the Big Consultancies who have benefited from the traditional ‘outsourced’ model that that do so well.

This approach requires strong organisational engagement, empathy, practical understanding and application so that any strategy implementation has a better chance of success.

But further, it places more emphasis on value being generated for and derived by the client organisation. We believe this longer term, collaborative approach is the way forward and is one that yields immediate payback to clients both in the form of smarter individual and collective decision making, and in the development of improved strategic thinking skills.

At Whitecap, our Directors and Associates all have considerable executive experience, so we understand the realities and practicalities of strategy development and implementation, at the same time as delivering all other short-term commercial outcomes and senior management responsibilities.

Whitecap Consulting are specialists in providing strategy, marketing and commercial consultancy. Read more about us