You don’t need a reporting relationship to get things done


Organisations often need a watchdog role.  I know we shouldn’t call it that, we should at least say ‘ensure quality’ or ‘alignment’.  But what we are trying to achieve is to make sure that a group of people provide the services or do the work as required.

One particular role comes to mind where this function appears – Manager of Strategy.   This role is often expected to ensure that plans and outputs across the business align with the agreed organisational strategy.

To give the role the ability to its job, the initial thinking might be to set up a reporting relationship, putting the Manager of Strategy between their own manager and the people who need to be aligned with the strategy.  Unfortunately, this will cause delivery to stall, and frustration for those involved because it creates an extra layer in the organisation which does not actually exist.

So what do we do?  First, we don’t change the accountability at all.  We still make the Manager of Strategy accountable for ensuring others align to agreed strategy.   But what we also do is give them the authority to match, then make sure all those involved are aware they have this authority.   We could give the Manager of Strategy a type of cross-functional  authority called Monitor authority, which allows them to be informed as to what is happening, and they can call a pause to any plans or work to take it higher if there is disagreement as to whether the work indeed aligns.

Note that the role can’t terminate any particular work, this would be Audit authority.  This level is likely to be too strong as it would feel unfair to others that the Manager of Strategy has the final say in whether their work strategically aligns.  At the same time, if the Manager of Strategy could only suggest changes, and couldn’t call a pause to escalate (which would be Advisory authority), it would no longer be fair to hold them accountable for strategic alignment.   We could only hold them accountable for providing advice about it.

As regular readers would know from previous posts, there are a total of seven cross-functional authorities which were identified by Elliott Jaques.   The Monitor authority as used above is a way to ensure the work gets done as required without creating a layer that will not add value, and without unnecessarily stifling the creativity of others.

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