I would venture a guess that it’s not exactly common for multinational executives to make an analogy between their local managers and schoolyard recess. Clearly one group is comprised of precocious adults, while the other group, well, is not. However in the strategic planning process, Frontier Strategy Group has identified a surprising amount of similarities in behavior. Often times when local managers engage in the planning process, they are tempted to act as what we have playfully called either victims or bullies.
The “victims” play defense, focusing on keeping expectations on the low end so they can make sure to meet or exceed them. This can manifest in managers consistently providing overly pessimistic forecasts, and constantly communicating upwards regarding current and anticipated market constraints.
The “bullies,” on the other hand, tend to be concerned with expanding their own little fiefdoms, regardless of whether that is the right answer for the organization as a whole. “Bullies,” tend to show up a little less frequently than “victims,” but they may still be a concern in certain pockets of your organization. Bullies are found arguing for expanded operating budgets and are often overly optimistic regardless of whether targets are met in the short-term.
What you want, of course, is for each of your key team leaders to be in a healthy place in the middle of this pendulum. You want them to serve as trusted partners in the planning process with the freedom to speak their minds, the energy to propose some creative and courageous proposals, and the best interests of the health of your overall organization as their guiding concern while planning.
To achieve that end, Frontier Strategy Group has identified a number of strategies that are built on the foundation of:
1. Capturing the wisdom on the front lines
2. Ensuring plan morale stays high
One unique strategy for ensuring that plan morale stays high is the result of an insight that many companies overlook – employees can simultaneously be highly engaged, demonstrating high enthusiasm, and yet be poorly aligned to the strategic direction is trying to work towards. In this case, one Frontier Strategy Group client refers to these types of employees as “Loose Cannons”. Loose Cannons are people you really want to keep in your organization, but they need to be reoriented so that their energy and ability is helpful than potentially damaging or just wasted.
In my next post, we’ll discuss more about how companies are equipping their team leaders to spot and correct Loose Cannons, as well as other strategies for improving overall local team buy-in to the strategic plan.