If you read our previous post, you will know that we started from the recognition that the toolbox of leaders, who seek to execute a corporate strategy, needs to be better equipped than before.

We are not alone with this observation:  Donald Sull et al. give their view in an excellent HBR article. The essence of the article is that organizations stumble on the “horizontal process” part of strategy execution, and according to our experience that is indeed a major part of the execution troubles we see.

So what do we at CleverOcean see as the new “hammers and nails” in the strategy execution toolbox?

Starting at the top, the Board of Directors is a good place to learn what works and what needs to improve. From own experience, Boards are typically doing quite well on the “mandatory stuff”: Boards are responsible for ensuring that the company fulfills its legal requirements, and that it has the necessary capital to do business, so all responsible Boards have finances and legal compliance on their agenda.

In terms of “toolbox to execute”, we do not know of any responsible Boards that do not get regular updates “on the numbers”, i.e., how the outcome of financial numbers compare to budget and forecasts on both cash flow and profit-loss levels. All of this due to the fact, that companies do make sure they have a Financial Accounting system in place that can produce these numbers timely and mostly accurately…

When it comes to adding value to the company, however, Board members feel the pressure and need to go much further. According to a McKinsey Quarterly article, many Boards express that they want to among other:

  • Engage more between meetings
  • Engage with strategy as it’s forming
  • Engage the field by being involved in specific projects
  • Engage on the tough questions

From first hand experience, these types of engagement activities actually do happen in Boards all the time. However, they happen through bursts of emails between some or all of the Board members and the Executives of the company or through phone meetings between these individuals.

So what’s the problem? In our view, the issue is not that Boards do not strive to do these things, it is a matter of the Board toolbox containing only a couple of primitive hammers: the email that typically ends up in already cluttered inboxes, and the phone meeting that is a quick, but “non-documented” tool to get things done.

Imagine instead that the Board could engage through a tool, which would allow it to agree on goals, record the decisions made, follow through and contribute in strategic initiatives and communicate with each other on demand. And dive into how the company is doing on key execution parameters, also on demand.

Given that Board members are typically busy, seasoned and demanding business people, the following list are just some of the things that would need to be true about a tool that would be usable and be used by your “standard Board”:

  1. It must be completely intuitive, fast, secure and aesthetically designed
  2. It must be fit the nature of the company and the way the Board wants to work
  3. It can not give the company executives an extra work burden. On the contrary, it should make life easier for the executives, and should ideally melt into the work habits for these guys too. 
  4. It should of course support all types of devices…and it should allow for the types of engagement listed above.

So if these are the requirements for a tool, CleverOcean will deliver it.

And by the way: if a tool works for the Board, why wouldn’t it work for leaders on other, or even all, levels of an organization? More about that in our next post…