Cross-institutional objectives vs. personal agendas
Client: Large Non-Profit
Challenge: Develop a new set of expectations and reporting structures that would reduce political end-runs, lack of commitment and accountability and mixed messages from the CEO.
Outcome: Executives developed a system that supports free, full and iterative dialogue around the alignment of vision, strategy, culture, and performance; where leaders enter communication with an open mindset; share divergent perspectives; reflect critically utilizing shared frameworks, engage in an inclusive fashion; and appreciate individual differences.
Discovery: 20 hours of interviews with individual members of the Executive Leadership Team, and 8 hours of process observation led to analyses of the group's dynamics. Analysis was divided into three parts, which collectively led to recommendations for a leadership structure focusing on strategy, culture, and performance.
Dialogue: Although the leadership team's espoused purpose was to support cross-institutional strategies, it served more as a forum for sharing with some discussion. Decision making and prioritization were major sources of frustration and roles of individual leadership team members remained unclear. The culture of the leadership team was collegial to an extent, but lacked in focus upon cross-institutional efforts. In some cases, cross-institutional tasks agreed upon in leadership meetings were left on the back-burner after meetings; commitment and follow-through contribute to additional clarity issues. Institutionally, the leadership team was viewed as an insular function, separated from the rest of the organization. Greater visibility and solidarity could go a long way in supporting morale.
Epiphany: The structure and dialogue process of executive leaders was not well suited to meet the challenges of executive attrition, infrastructure burden, and too many priorities. What would be required is a new advisory/working group structure to free up time, strategic resources, and talent to refine and accomplish these strategic priorities.