Strategy and culture need decision rights and empowerment

Battle-hardened, decorated Army Generals always advise their upcoming colleagues that “the best commander makes sure his soldiers know the target and the strategy to win.”

Wars are won and lost on the frontline. The foot soldiers are the folks who must remember and make the right calls amidst gunfire and fighting for survival.

When you sit down with a battle-hardened soldier you appreciate the importance of teamwork and swift communication across the board. The messages must be short, clear, and crisp. People at the frontline do not have the advantage of reading long memos or instructions. They need something specific and practical. They need decision rights (the kind of decisions they are allowed to take given their roles) and triggers (and what they can see or feel to know that they should make the move). Something that prompts them to take a certain action or decision.

Much as frontline folks may suffer from tunnel vision because they don’t have lots of data to analyse, they must have survival instincts, when to fire or to stay put or play dead or move swift to cover territory or to help a hit colleague to safety so that s/he is not claimed as a fallen man by the enemy which could risk the mission plan and strategy.

In the business, the executive team is the command center. The field staff who are customer-facing, are the frontline foot soldiers. These are the folks in the real mix of the business. They need clear decision rights, good behaviors enablers, and artifacts to re-enforce the behaviors. That is the building block of a high-performing culture.

When you craft a strategy, it remains a document. The ultimate test of your strategy happens during real implementation. And that calls for a winning culture, which is required over 5-10 years to create and implement.  It takes time but once you master it, people at the frontline will have your back, because they know you have theirs. So effective and ongoing strategy communication to the frontline people is a critical element to winning.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2022. All rights reserved.

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