I was looking back at ‘Strategic Talent Development,’ the book I published in 2014, and was struck by this quote I had taken from A.G. Lafley, chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble: “the CEO has a very specific job that only he or she can do: link the external world with the internal organization”. He goes on to say; “the CEO alone experiences the meaningful outside at an enterprise level and is responsible for understanding it, interpreting it, advocating it, and presenting it so that the company can respond in a way that enables sustainable sales, profit, and total shareholder return (TSR) growth”. (Lafley, 2009).
For me, this shows just how much the world has changed since 2009. Understanding the external world is no longer the preserve of the people at the top. Thanks to technology and media, we are now all engaging with the outside world on a regular, if not constant basis. Moreover, as roles are becoming increasingly inter-connected and complex, we are individually, at all levels, the ones who can make meaningful sense of what’s out there, as relates to our sphere of operation. The role now of the CEO and of the top, strategic leadership team, is to make sure that we are each empowered and equipped to spot opportunity and bring it into the organisation.
How? Firstly, by communicating, communicating and communicating the visions and values of the organisation, its strategic direction and ambitions so that people have the necessary understanding to know what to look for and what to bring in. Secondly, by high levels of collaboration and a high value placed on listening and working with others’ ideas. Thirdly, having great processes for rapidly considering ideas and new developments and identifying if they will work. Fourthly, through fantastic reward and recognition processes that remove fear of failure and give people scope to experiment and innovate.
None of this removes the responsibility and accountability of the CEO and top team for setting the strategy but it makes their role of setting the cultural tone ever more significant.
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©Janice Caplan 2020