The CEO (or business unit leader, or departmental leader) should not be carrying the full burden in strategy development. Instead, focus your efforts on these 11 roles:

  1. Set the goals and ambition. It is your job to say how high the bar should be raised. Managing the tension between what you believe is achievable and what your team feels they can ‘sign-off’ is a critical element of any strategy process.
  2. Drive the pace of change. Related to the overall goals of the business, the CEO must set the pace of change across the business. If your people have clear goals and know what is expected of them they are able to achieve far more than even they believe.
  3. Engage your top team. Real up-front involvement of your leadership team enables them to take ownership of the future direction of the business and its results.
  4. Challenge and question your business unit leaders. Engagement does not mean abdication. You can provide significant value to your team by asking the critical questions on the issues that will drive the longer-term performance of your company.
  5. Lead the debate about more radical alternatives. In my experience, many strategy exercises lead to growth agendas that are simply ‘more of the same’. It is up to the CEO to provide the impetus for considering sharper turns in the organsiation’s direction.
  6. Lead the dialogue with the board. As with your team, direct involvement is the best way to create commitment. Having your board firmly behind you in more difficult times is much more likely if they have a strong belief in the company’s underlying strategy.
  7. Ensure there is integration across the company. Problems can surface down the line, however, if you haven’t ensured there is alignment and integration in certain areas, including people, operations, marketing and where two parts of your business share the same customers.
  8. Align the strategy with the company’s values. Your people will understand and believe in your strategy if they can see a fit with company’s underlying values.
  9. Be the new strategy’s role model. It’s not about having memorable catch phrases; it’s about taking ongoing actions that are consistent and congruent with your stated objectives.
  10. Engage the wider organisation. The CEO plays a critical role in organisational engagement in two ways. First, by gaining insights and ideas from people at the front line, and second, by leading the communication of the strategy.
  11. Have the final say on big decisions. Ultimately, the success of the strategy, or otherwise, will be down to you, so make sure that you have your say on the big calls.

© Stuart Cross 2010. All Rights Reserved.