Strategy's Golden QuestionFor the past several years, the request to help business functions, teams, and projects develop a strategic plan has increased steadily.

At CMOE, we pride ourselves on being a leader in helping functional support groups, projects, and teams formulate strategy within their part of the business.

We affectionately like to call this Managing the Business-within-the-Business™. This endeavor is important because every business has to make choices about which activities to perform in-house and which activities to outsource in the open market.

If you bring any activity or function in-house, you have to incur the administrative costs and organizational headaches of managing that activity.  Likewise, there are challenges if you outsource some of the activities.

You run the risk of incurring transactional and contract management costs. In either case, these choices create a very real competitive threat if you are the leader of a piece of the firm’s value chain of activities.

Someone, something, somehow is looking to perform your activity better, faster, and cheaper than you. And you have to be really good at keeping your contribution relevant and adding value to the business.

So this raises the golden question that every support function—every activity within the business—should ask themselves:

Are we helping the Mother Ship make more money and reduce the cost of running the company?

Some may say this is a rather harsh question for the leader or individual contributor to ask themselves. However, that is what strategy creation is all about in the end, especially if you are a for-profit enterprise. It really means that each function needs to reflect and build a strategic plan that will contribute to the competitive advantage of the firm.

When we talk about each function adding value to the business, what we really mean by that is helping the firm improve its overall competitiveness. Each function has to become a source of competitive advantage, and in order to be relevant, each function has to look for new and innovative solutions to help solve the firm’s strategic problems.

So yes, the golden question is harsh. It is also necessary to periodically ask each department, team, or business function how they are making a strategic contribution to the business—even though these businesses-inside-the-business may not be actually calling on external customers or inventing new products and services.

Nevertheless, they can play a vital role in helping the organization as a whole be different, be unique, and be special in the marketplace. The challenge that we work to address here at CMOE is helping all of these functions and departments that live inside the corporate cocoon recognize that they have a strategic role to play in helping the company achieve better results. Far too many of these functions or activities lie hidden deep within the organization.

Some are oblivious of the need to be more proactive in shaping the future within their own domain. Those companies who do actively engage and strategically align each activity in the value chain stand a better chance of being more profitable and more successful than the average company. If you are not better than average as a company, we believe that there is a serious lack of strategic focus.

Strategic focus has to occur at all levels—not just at the top of the organization. In essence, strategy has to be everyone’s job, even individual contributors. After all, we are all the solution to a problem and that solution is most likely needed internally.

If you have more interest in learning how to formulate and implement strategy inside your business, please contact us for more information.


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About the Author
Steven Stowell, Ph.D.
Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth.

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