Architecting Your Leadership Team For High Performance – Part 1

Why The Term “Architecting”?

Good afternoon everybody. The title for the presentation today has the word “Architecting” in that. That was intentional because I think in many ways designing and architecting a leadership team go hand-in-hand. I’m always reminded of the old saying, “form follows function” and so talking about how to create and architect a leadership team for high performance then becomes the goal. Architecting too because it can be proactive, it can be a planful process, and it gives you as sense of what success looks like once the team is in place and high levels of performance are reached. And finally it leads to desired outcomes in terms of what does the team focus on, and in a way (if I can borrow from a construction analogy) you’re basically sourcing your talent, aligning your talent, and blending the talent to create a high performing team. 

So today we’re basically going to look at three questions: 

1.    How do you decide who should be on the team?
2.    How do you accelerate the startup of the team once the team is assembled? 
3.    How do you reach & maintain levels of peak (high) performance?

So how will we accomplish this? We’ll use a few models and frameworks basically taking a theory “lite” approach. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to talk about some easy-to-apply, some practical, proven concepts, and finally as a takeaway for some of us, some new original ideas to consider trying out and experimenting with on your own teams in your businesses or organizations. 

Who Should Be On The Team?

So this first question: How do you decide who should be on the team? Of the three questions that we’re going to answer today, this one will basically be the shortest one. Not because it’s not important, but the fact that it can be kind of a complicated answer and requires a little bit more exploration. We’ll hit on it at a high level to give a little flavor to what we’re talking about. 

Star Model

One of the more useful models that I’ve found and working with leaders and clients comes from Jay Galbraith and it’s called the Star Model. The five points of the star are managing:

•    Strategy
•    Structure
•    Process
•    People
•    Rewards

Of the many good points Jay mentions about this model the two I think that are most important is the notion that there’s an interdependence between the five elements, (in other words, it’s hard to think about strategy without thinking about structure without thinking about process, and the connection of those as well as people and rewards) and so I find it helps business leaders think more systemically and big picture before deciding to take action. Now the premise here is that if you align and develop and implement those elements the output from that are a set of desired behaviors, a certain level of performance, and ultimately influencing or shaping your organization’s culture. 

Where Is Your Strategic Focus?

So the first question then of who should be on your team really needs to be backed up by another question; where is your strategic focus? There’s many ways to look at this and the one I have listed here on the slide basically looks at a product orientation, an operations orientation, or a customer orientation. Depending on that strategic focus or decision, how you create value can be seen in the second column. So companies that focus on products tend to have more leading-edge technology, useful features and applications that they develop, and as you can see from a capability perspective they tend to focus more on innovation and R&D investment. So Apple comes to mind, J&J comes to mind, Sony in its prime comes to mind. 

The decision then to be product focused verses operations focused as you see leads to different ways to looking at how value is created within the organization and the capability implications from that. So coming from companies like UPS, Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s where they need to be more on the reliable, low-cost side of things are going to tend to focus on standardizing their processes and a spirt of continuous improvement. So this first question, where is your strategic focus, once that gets answered, what would come next is to look at how we’re going to structure the organization to support that strategy. 

Structures That Support Strategy

So we tend to align our structures with the strategic direction to name a few structures can be arranged by:

•    Function
•    Geography
•    Product
•    Customer
•    Hybrid

So what does that look like? Well at a very high level your traditional functional arrangement would be your senior leader at the top followed by the various functions below him or her like marketing, sales, R&D and so forth. From a geographical perspective the same leader could be arranged by regions where North America and Latin America for example are two of the five regions that would support into that organizational leader. 

From a product perspective, you can imagine like a pharmaceutical company that would have a portfolio based on cardiovascular drugs, those supporting neuroscience, or maybe they have a diagnostics division or business unit. So they arrange their structures accordingly. 

And then finally from a customer perspective, you can imagine that different products appeal to different customers and so you arrange your organization this way where you have a business to business focus. You have a function or a business unit that is focusing on your luxury brand, your economy brands, and your vacation brands. 

Final Considerations

Then finally going back to this question of who should be on the team as the structure does get implemented, there comes into play issues of hierarchy and power and how that plays out typically is in terms of workflow and whether the workflow is more of a horizontal or lateral process vs. vertical. Most importantly, in terms of looking at the white spaces (or the spaces that are not named with titles or roles on the org chart) speak to the:

•    Interfaces
•    Boundaries
•    Role Clarity
•    Culture 

So ultimately you’re developing a structure that has a nice balance between flexibility and complexity and regardless of which model you use, there’s going to be inherent advantages and disadvantages. It’s always a matter of tradeoffs vs. having the right structure.

The last part about this question (Where is your strategic focus?) comes into play in terms of how you identify talent, and develop talent in terms of promotion. Most organizations that have a critical eye towards talent management are going to be involved in a regular ongoing process of succession planning. They’re looking to support their strategy and support their structure, those roles that are most critical or pivotal for the organization, and in general, trying to identify who are the high potentials in the organization to lead these particular groups. I find that they use some variation of the 6-box grid as a way to plot their high potentials and their performance levels, and they look at readiness of candidates. Do they have the relevant experiences to head a particular business unit or function as well as what does the high potential actually want in terms of their career, willingness, their aspirations to take on roles and responsibilities of greater leadership? 

So in a nutshell, how do you decide who should be on the team? 

1.    Create a structure that’s aligned with your strategy and supports it. 
2.    Identify, select, promote & develop high potential talent.
3.    Be proactive about workforce and succession planning for critical roles.