Changing Corporate Leadership Roles and Responsibilities

– Do you see yourself confronted with a restructure of top level management?
– Has your organization been growing rapidly but was this change not reflected in an update of the management/organization structure?
– Is their probably more management needed with different roles?
– Is it not clear which roles and responsibility are needed and on what level of the organization?

Then the article below will be of interest to you. It will outline a clear approach, without going into specific details.

Before you start
When a change in the formal structure or process is asked for, experiences learns to look carefully at the informal organization. More often then not it is not the formal structure that is the most limiting but the informal. Since the informal is a lot less visible and discussable then the formal a lot of feedback, discussions or feelings are projected onto the visible, formal.
A top level manager is by the nature of her/his position even less approachable for subjective/informal feedback. A lot of the feedback a (top-level) manager is getting will be presented in the saver form of a change in the formal organization. The typical questions will ask for better processes, different organization structure, better defined roles and responsibilities, etc. This is especially true if the personal characteristics of that leader play a role in the perceived limiting situation.

An organization reflects the characteristics of its leader.

Clarity comes from the formal; structure, roles and responsibility AND from the informal management style; style of delegation, problem resolving and the way people are hold responsible. You can change every structure and process but if the person or team that in the end is/ are responsible do not address the issues effectively the paper structure is useless. More change in that (formal) area will not help you.

Therefor I urge every manager that feels the need to make formal changes in process, responsibility or structure to closely evaluate if the feedback that has lead to need for change. Often this evaluation cannot be done by the manager because of the interaction at play. Even if a small personal characteristic, consciously or unconsciously, is at play in keeping the perceived problem going ask an outsider the help you make the evaluation.

I bet that, after close evaluation, you find that both sides of the coin need attention. They operate as the wheels of an ox-wagon. If one wheel is smaller then the other you go around in circles without getting anywhere.

The structural side
In this article I focus on a possibility how you can create clarity on the structure side of the coin. There is a lot more to say about changing structures. In this article I restrict myself to show you a simple possibility. If for example you have the idea that a change in structure can give you a distinguished competitive advantage you need to follow a different approach. If that is not the case these simple steps will help you to get a better picture. Seek local advice before you implement it though.

Before you begin: To create commitment for any change it is wise to involve the people that are part of that change. In this case you need to think how to involve your management team. In the steps I talk to you, but you can decide for yourself to take all of part of the steps with your team. I would do it!

Step one: the basics.

The first step is dreaming out loud. (Their are a lot of different aspects to do this step well, which I hope to cover in a different article.) Make a couple of drafts of dreamed of solutions. Do not restrict yourself, dream out loud. Quickly draft some structures with different roles, levels, etc. The biggest downfall in this step is immediately starting to limit yourself and discussing (out loud or in your head) why it is not feasible. Take 30 minutes max.

Step two: reality check.

The Pareto principle at work for you. 80% of your dreamed change is already know to you. It will cost you 20% of energy and time to get it out in the open. Discovering the last 20% will on the other hand cost you 80% of your time and energy. Most people think of these 20% when they think about change. Not a nice thing to look forward to. The question you can ask yourself is when are you satisfied? In an always changing world, knowing the limitations of ourselves I personally think that going for the 100% does not make any sense. The moment your done thinking it is outdate.

Quickly run yourself through a set of questions. You don’t need to know the exact answers. At a later moment you may need to investigate some of it deeper but not for know.

– Which qualities are essential for your company? Think in customer relations or knowledge that when it is lost to your organization is not easily replaced.
– Whom pose these qualities? Be aware of people playing the expert role overcomplicating their field of expertise.
– Which qualities are missed?

– How many managers are their working now on the levels you want to change?
– Do you want/need to increase or decrease the headcount?
– What are the numbers?

– What does your strategic outlook learn you?
– How much will the organization grow/downsize?
– What can be afforded or what would you like to afford?
– How will this influence the headcount & quality of the management?

The answers roughly give you an indication of your possibilities.

Step three: choose the best solution for now

Take the results of step one and two and start doodling. Doodling you go back and forth between your dreams and the facts of reality. A couple of dream scenario’s will not make it to the final selection based on what is possible. Before you throw them out: What made them attractive? Can their attractive aspect also be part of a different structure? Draw new solutions. Nothing is final here but you are looking for an 80% candidate that you can put to a test. Done doodling? Make two more!

Pick one candidate you put to the test. Don’t throw anything away! The attractive aspects of structures that do not make the final selection may give you the answers when you finally pick your candidate.

Step four: make your test

Every (large) complex organization needs a set of roles and behaviors that are essential to govern it. For example, someone, either alone or in partnership with other senior executives, must set strategic vision and direction. Someone must establish organizational structures that ensure the achievement of those strategic objectives. Someone must serve as the external representative of the organization. Etc.

Below the article you find 11 specific roles that together constitute both the strategic and operational responsibilities of corporate leadership. These roles— strategist, architect, ambassador—and others can be thought of as key categories in the job description of corporate leadership. Every role comes with a set of responsibilities that can either be performed by one person or be distributed over different roles/people. For the 11 roles I work with 49 responsibilities.

To test if your structure can hold all these responsibilities you can make a matrix. On top, the roles you defined as outcome from the previous steps, on the left you put the roles with responsibilities as shown below. I have a very extended test available contact me if you want to make use of it.

Step five: put your selected structure to the test

This step is especially interesting to do with all the people involved. It starts the dialog between everybody and creates a lot of clarity.
For every role and the responsibilities therein score which of your designed roles is taking the lead and which role will be the backup in your organization.
If you do this as a group, every person fills in the list by her or himself and as group you compare the differences and (briefly) discuss the logic behind it.

Step six: evaluate the outcomes and make changes

Some rules to look at in this step:
– To be effectively organized you want to share the workload among the team
– You want logical groups of responsibilities to minimize the overhead and create maximal clarity
– You probably want healthy check and balances. Some roles need conflicting interest to create a balanced and optimal output for your organization.

In the group of by yourself you look at every individual role of your wanted structure and check it minimal with the rules above. Probably you find that some roles are relative light others are to heavy. Redistribute the responsibilities until you have a balanced distribution.

Step seven: the famous gap analysis

Until now you designed a structure and defined roles and responsibilities. The next thing is to put the present situation next to this desired outcome. You will find small and big gaps.

There are many questions to be answered in this step. An aspect you should address before but becomes more pressing in this step is the questions of the people involved and their sense of security. Asking questions about structure is one, starting to address them can be very threatening since the outcome can be that for some people their is no place in the organization and others are confronted with different roles.

Puzzle with all aspects in this phase. Letting go of people can be disturbing for the sense of security. On the other hand it may create a clear signal to the organization. Some people may easily fit in a now role/position others need bigger changes. Some people may need extra training or coaching to perform well in their new roles. New people may come onboard and need to be recruited.

I suggest with the results you find in this step you go back through the steps again and see if you need to make any changes.

Keep in mind that it is possibility not to change everything at once. There maybe natural moments to make some changes or it makes more sense to grow more slowly.

Step eight: do it!

Execution is everything!

The plan may be right but if the execution stinks nothing good will come forth!

In this step the people that stay need to take on their new roles and responsibilities. New people may get onboard and take on their roles. This phase will ask al lot from the people involved. They will need to come to an understanding of their intrinsic reason to work for the company and if their personal believes and values fit their role and responsibility. From a team perspective the team needs to relearn their capabilities to effectively work together. Depending on their personal level of development this process may go faster or take more time. From an organization perspective the people that get new managers or indirectly are influenced by the new structure need to find their new ways of performing their task. If for example a responsibility moves from one manager to an other the team he/she is a leading, even if it stays the same, will immediately be influenced as well. The manager needs to address this and probably looks to the management team and you to help him with it. From an outside perspective, customers, suppliers, networks etc. may see themselves also confronted with different relationships with and in your organization.

For you this is an intensive phase. With many insecurities organizations look at top level management for solutions. YOU!

It will all depend on the impact of your change how long and complicate all and especially these last step will be!

Corporate Leadership Roles
Role Activites
Strategist Shapes corporate strategic direction
Architect Establishes organizational structure and operating systems to ensure achievement of strategic direction
Ambassador Serves as principal external representative of the company
Keeper of Corporate ImageSets tone and direction for relations with key external constituencies
Policy ManagementTranslates corporate vision and strategy into organizational policies, directives, and procedures
Performance ManagementSets and reviews corporate management performance targets
Operations ManagementManages operations of company in ways consistent with strategic goals and performance targets
Functional ManagementManages functional staff, such as human resources, legal, public relations, and finance
Process ManagementEnsures that core business processes are in place and working effectively
People ManagementDevelops and leads senior management
Information ManagementServes as internal spokesperson for corporate messages