Alternative Selection Warning Flag 2 – An Initiative for Every Executive

StrategyDriven Alternative Selection Warning FlagSenior executives typically ascend to their elevated positions through the contribution of significant organizational value. While these individuals’ daily activities provided ongoing benefit throughout their careers, there is seldom a more value adding opportunity than successful leadership of a strategic initiative or large-scale project. Consequently, senior leaders seeking further career development and advancement covet these initiatives; sometimes resulting in the creation of such projects to satisfy an individual’s need rather than an organizational one.[wcm_restrict plans=”25541, 25542, 25653″]

Strategic initiative selection should serve to offer high mission value regardless of where in the organization the initiative resides. On occasion, a sound selection process may assign a strategic initiative to each executive within the senior leadership team. However, more often than not, the distribution of these initiatives will be unevenly divided among senior leaders and in many cases one or more executives will remain without an assigned project. Devising initiatives for otherwise unburdened executives detracts from more organizationally value-adding efforts by diverting limited resources and management attention. While not all inclusive, the four lists below, Process-Based Warning Flags, Process Execution Warning Flags – Behaviors, Potential, Observable Results, and Potential Causes, are designed to help leaders recognize when inappropriately create strategic initiatives to satisfy personal demands for them. Only after a problem is recognized and its causes identified can the needed action be taken to move the organization toward improved performance.

Process-Based Warning Flags

  • Strategic planning procedures demand each business unit pursue a given number of initiatives within a defined timeframe, typically one year, rather than focusing initiative selection on overarching organizational goals (See StrategyDriven article, Strategic Planning Warning Flag – Business Unit versus Goal-Based Planning)
  • Business units have differing (not integrated) strategic planning processes generating initiatives requiring support from other work centers
  • Strategic planning processes limits the number of strategic initiatives assigned to any one particular area
  • Executive and managerial performance evaluation systems drives the need for these individuals to demonstrate personal capability by leading and/or participating in large projects
  • Promotion criteria favors those leading and/or participating in strategic initiatives
  • Annual bonus program protocols favor those leading or participating in strategic initiatives

Process Execution Warning Flags – Behaviors

  • Board members and C-suite executives use initiative leadership for executive positional needs justification, value contribution identification, managerial performance demonstration, and rewards and promotions decisions
  • Executives and managers demand leadership and/or participation in strategic initiatives as a way of demonstrating individual value contribution
  • Managers resist allowing subordinates to participate in the initiatives led by other organization leaders

Potential, Observable Results

  • Functional area compartmentalizing of strategic initiative effort such that these projects don’t benefit from cross-functional insights; limiting their overall value potential and differentiation from competitors’ products and services
  • Delays in implementing strategic initiatives
  • Initiatives lack credibility and implementation buy-in by the broader organization because of a lack of cross-functional development participation
  • Elevated resistance to strategic initiative implementation
  • Personnel development is limited because of a lack of opportunities to participate in cross-functional initiatives

Potential Causes

  • Board of directors values strategic initiative leadership and provides compensation and promotional benefits to those leading such projects
  • Executives and managers feeling of self-worth aligned with leadership and participation in strategic initiatives
  • Executives and managers value strategic initiative leadership and participation; providing compensation and promotional benefits to those involved with such projects
  • Senior leaders do not collaboratively share accountability for all strategic initiatives taken on by the organization (See StrategyDriven article, Strategic Planning Best Practice – Shared Accountability)

Final Thought…

While there are many similarities between the Initiative for Every Executive and Too Many Initiatives warning flags, they are distinctly different. Those seeking to determine whether such conditions exist within their organization need to look deeply into the underlying drivers to discern whether an organization has too many initiatives because it is assigning one to every executive or if the fact that every executive has an initiative is an outcome of pursuing too many initiatives.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”25541, 25541, 25653″]

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About the Author

Nathan Ives, StrategyDriven Principal is a StrategyDriven Principal and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast. For over twenty years, he has served as trusted advisor to executives and managers at dozens of Fortune 500 and smaller companies in the areas of management effectiveness, organizational development, and process improvement. To read Nathan’s complete biography, click here.

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