Rethinking The “Top-Down” Approach: Strategy In The Middle

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When strategy is the topic of conversation, many people quietly assume that they can stop paying attention. Strategy has the reputation for being off limits to the vast majority of employees, something that only members of the Senior Leadership Team can conceptualize, create, implement, and measure.

In fact, many companies do operate this way, but by allowing only a select few individuals to influence the strategic direction of the company, these top-down companies may be overlooking a vast and untapped resource: the employees who are down in the trenches working every day to make the company successful.

While it’s true that senior leaders must certainly have a heavy hand in the creation of an organization’s long-term strategy, as well as the vision necessary to anticipate what the future is likely to hold, overlooking and under-using the intellectual power that is present throughout the organization simply isn’t a smart use of resources.

The distinct groups of individuals that make up the body of an organization each view the business through a distinct lens, and because their perspectives are so varied, each group will tackle problems in different ways. Some groups may also be privy to information that other groups don’t have, giving them unique insight into the best approach to resolving certain kinds of issues. For example:

  • Purchasing agents within the company are more likely to have direct contact with suppliers, giving them a keen understanding of the supply chain and potential glitches that could affect the company’s productivity.
  • R&D staff will be acutely aware of new products currently under development as well as new products that should be under development due to shifting demands in the market.
  • Customer-support personnel are charged with developing strong relationships with customers and will have an intimate understanding of the frustrations and requirements of the people who are ultimately served by the business.
  • Leaders, supervisors, and members of the human-resources department will have a better sense of the kinds of capabilities that the company will need in the future and the talent that is available to fill it.

informationInformation drives the specific strategic direction that a company chooses to pursue, so logic says that the more information a company has, the better its strategy will be.

For companies to create rich, intelligent, well-rounded strategies, it’s imperative that they encourage people to communicate across organizational boundaries and listen to the ideas of people working at every level.

Different areas of the business are likely to grapple with very different issues, but having a better understanding of the realities of each department’s work environment will help all members of the organization to see the business as a whole, rather than treating it as a collection of unrelated parts.

Having a complete picture of the business allows every team member to understand their role in relation to others and to find ways to support and align with strategic activities happening everywhere in the company.

Everybody has the ability to take strategic action, and we believe that strategy is everyone’s job. Strategy doesn’t need to shake the business to the core. It doesn’t require you to burn everything down to bare ground. It certainly doesn’t need to consume all of your precious time.

Being the architect of a truly revolutionary business strategy can begin with taking a series of small, thoughtful steps towards the creation of a better reality. The power to make that happen is right in front of you. We implore you to create a culture that demands a deeper level of strategic thought from all employees.

The strength of an organization where every employee takes personal responsibility for the business’ long-term success is a force to be reckoned with.

The value of employee commitment, personal ownership, and loyalty to the organization are immeasurable, and although the latter may not be quantifiable in the traditional sense, you’ll certainly see their impact in terms of employee retention, engagement, and morale—as well as in the company’s all-important bottom line.

Sometimes the simplest ideas spur small actions that have the collective power to change the future in remarkable ways.

What are you waiting for?

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About the Author

Emily Hodgeson-Soule

Emily Hodgson-Soule has worked with CMOE since 2009 and is the Director of Program Design and Development. She holds a Master of Professional Communication (MPC) degree with dual emphasis in writing and multimedia. Emily works closely with CMOE’s client organizations to assess their internal training and development needs and provide learning solutions that fulfill the requirements and the strategic goals of each organization.