Being outcome-oriented is not easy
A commentary on Paul Leinwand’s ‘Beyond Digital’
A few days ago I finished reading “Beyond Digital” by Paul Leiwand and Mahadeva Matt Mani. I thought it’s’ a great ‘final part of the trilogy’ after ‘The Essential Advantage’ and ‘Strategy That Works’.
Of all its lessons, though, one in particular stuck in my head: chapter five, ‘Build Outcome-Oriented Teams’. It may seem obvious, who’s going to say their team isn’t outcome-oriented?, but the authors explain it’s about something much deeper than that.
The vast majority of organizations, they explain, are made up of functional teams (the so-called ‘organizational silos’) with some transversal support teams (HR, Finance, Technology and others). While this is a stable model in static markets, in a rapidly changing world it’s greatly weakened by not being able to react quickly enough to capture priorities that need an integrated perspective and cross-organizational leadership.
The solution? Dedicated outcome-oriented teams, where these “outcomes” are the strategic priorities, or ‘capabilities’ that the organization aims to build in order to dominate certain markets, with robust leadership i.e. well-supported C-Level executives.
A company that intends to be truly ‘Customer-Centric’ should have a permanent ‘Chief Customer Officer’, with a dedicated team, own resources, capable of breaking down silos and speaking on an equal footing with the COO, CMO and others. Another that wants to be a leader in innovation should have its ‘Chief Innovation Officer’; a third, which aspires to be highly adaptable and able to transform at great speed, should have a ‘Chief Transformation Officer’.
The lessons in this chapter are very powerful. I’ve seen companies that said they wanted to do something similar to this, but set up ‘Chiefs’ already declared to be just temporary, or with minimal resources and internal support. And when it didn’t work out it was the Chiefs’ fault, the perfect excuse for silos and purely functional teams to continue isolated and unchallenged. I’ve also seen companies declaring that Client/Innovation should be ‘everyone’s responsibility’, ‘integrated into the culture’ and not some outcome-oriented team’s task, and in the end since no one was directly responsible, nothing changed.
‘Oh, but what about project teams, PMO teams, internal strategy teams, which are already transversal?’, I’ve also heard. The difference is that outcome-oriented teams have their own initiative and autonomy, with a clear focus, while these others are more ‘mercenary’ i.e. they can and should change focus as the company’s priorities evolve. These types of teams complement each other — not replace each other.
What do you think? Would outcome-oriented teams help your organization? They would certainly help many clients I’ve worked with in the past…