In his webinar, Prof Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez talked about how, for business leaders, strategy execution seems to be one of those business areas or concepts that eludes them. We wrote about some of the tips in the post Why Prioritisation Matters in Strategy Execution.
One of the areas mentioned that particularly piqued my interest was the Strategy Execution Office (SEO).
It’s a form of a PMO – the name doesn’t really matter, the question is – what does it do?
The premise of this kind of PMO is about bringing together the usual role of a portfolio management office – and combining it with strategy management and leadership.
The Strategy Execution Office is one where the formulation of the strategy is not done “up” there, at a senior board level, disconnected from the rest of the business – but included in the area where prioritisation happens and where programmes and projects are delivered.
The idea of a PMO being involved in strategy formulation as well as strategy execution is not new – just rare.
At last year’s PMO Conference, one speaker, the Head of Strategy for a multi-million pound international law firm, talked about their approach. It was all about the role of PMO in supporting strategy formulation and the PMO working in the Boardroom and highlighting the mutual benefits in connecting organisation strategy and the PMO. The key to success rests a lot with the way a PMO communicates and works with senior decision makers – about how to question, challenge, listen and be attuned to the business politics in play.
What is a Strategy Execution Office?
Prof Nieto-Rodriguez presents the Strategy Execution Office with these key components:
- Increases strategic dialogue on key business matters through prioritisation
- Enables decision-making
- Aligns senior executive team
- Focuses the organisation
- Increases accountability
- Breaks through silos – agile organisation
At the risk of the PMO starting to work in areas of the business – putting more fingers in the pie and increasing the level of responsibility beyond competency – the idea behind the Strategy Execution Office does make sense.
As long as the SEO is staffed with the right level of skills, leadership and accountability, why shouldn’t the senior executive team have a business function like this to support them? It is not a “monitor and control” type PMO, nor is it tactical. It is strategy led and that’s a very different type of PMO from those seen supporting programmes and projects.
The SEO can aid conversations about prioritisation – what’s already happening in the delivery side of the business. They can also lead conversations on why prioritisation is based on the strategy that the board is setting. The can aid decision-making by giving the Board the right kind of information to aid business decisions – rather than information based on how programmes and projects are doing. They can act as intermediary enabling the senior executive team to pull together and gain consensus.
Could they focus the organisation? Help increase accountability? Help break down silos? That depends on what the Board needs and wants – but the bottom line is, doesn’t the Board need help in making this happen? And who or what can do that?
How Does a Strategy Execution Office Happen?
It’s very rare that a business wakes up one day and says “let’s have a Strategy Execution Office”. Business support functions like this evolve and Prof Nieto-Rodriguez highlights this well with a story which is very common in the PMO world.
A lot of PMOs start in the IT function of a business – mainly because back in the day, that’s where a lot of the programmes and projects happened. With a good IT PMO Manager who is ambition, it wasn’t long before they were promoted and asked to perform a senior leadership role in the Engineering area of the business. Like any good manager, if you have a good team and you can take them with you, our IT PMO Manager does just that. The PMO in the Engineering area does well, our leader, with many years under his belt eventually becomes CEO of the firm. And still he wants the PMO with him. He realises that actually the PMO needs to have an independent position, alongside the other departments in the business. He calls the department ‘Office of Strategy Management’ and within it, is the Strategic Office.
Evolution, not revolution is how new ideas for supporting businesses through times of great change; innovation and complicity happen. It’s about looking at what skillsets are available in the business today and how extending duties and accountabilities can bring great value without huge amounts of implementation and running costs.
Could the Portfolio Management Office of today be the Strategy Execution Office?
The webinar from Prof Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez is available here to view:
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