Redefining the role of CSO

man writingDo you think the role of the CSO is no longer restricted to planning, in which case is there a risk of ambiguity/dilution of his responsibilities?   In today’s blog post Guru Malladi, Partner, Advisory Services, EY India, highlights the evolution of the CSO  to a CSIO and its importance in modern organizations.

Strategy is the prerogative of the Chief Executive, while the effectiveness of it depends mainly on meticulous implementation. Historically, as organisations have grown in size and complexity, Chief Executives realised the need for assistance in both strategy formulation as well as implementation.

Management gurus progressively labelled that role as a Chief Strategy Officer (CSO). Along with it came the mismatch in expectations of just how much of the role’s focus should be on formulation vis-a-vis implementation. Wherever there is a mismatch of expectations, there are casualties. And in this case it is the uniform understanding of what exactly a CSO’s role entitles. Accordingly, one finds different definitions and expectations.

Given that the effectiveness of any strategy is as good as its implementation, and borrowing from the 80:20 principle that applies to most aspects of life, it is evident where most of a CSO’s attention ought to be.

Over a period of time, particularly in large, complex organisations, the role merely represented a necessary class participation of another corporate function in the planning process. This is a clear deviation from the original intent of this role, which was in guiding the businesses (rudder), or department heads aligning their respective plans (thrust) to the overall strategic goals of the organisation. This is meant to be part of the implementation of the strategy, much like a rudder that helps navigate while the thrust ensures the movement.

It is true that progressively the mismatch in expectations, coupled with a growing demand for independence of business functions, has led to the dilution of the importance of this function (a recent parallel can be drawn with the redefining of the Planning Commission of India according to the needs of current times).

In some cases the role has also been seen as encroaching. All of these conflicts are nothing but sharp reminders to redefine and recalibrate the role of a CSO, including asking the uncomfortable question, ‘is the title of Chief Strategy Officer a true reflection of what is expected from the role?’ Should the role rather be that of a Chief Strategy Implementation Officer (CSIO)?
The success of any business strategy in the current era is a function of Innovation, Incubation and Implementation (the Grand I trio).

Innovation – In this age of digital transformation and constant evolution of technology, a Chief Executive must be equipped with enough cutting-edge ideas that can act as game changers in chalking up the organization’s strategy, and keeping it ahead of the curve. A CSO must provide the Chief Executive with ideas for innovation. Incubation – Whether it is an idea, or a strategy, it is essential for it to be tested and refined with speed and alacrity. It is the CSO’s responsibility to take the CEO’s ideas, refine them further and test them in a controlled environment to improve chances of success even further.

IncubationWhether it is an idea, or a strategy, it is essential for it to be tested and refined with speed and alacrity. It is the CSO’s responsibility to take the CEO’s ideas, refine them further and test them in a controlled environment to improve chances of success even further.

Implementation – The final, and perhaps most crucial, function is the implementation of the refined strategy and ensuring all steps taken by the organization are done with achieving that strategy in mind. The underlying factor in the Grand I trio is speed and alacrity. The relevance of a strategy function or that of a role similar to that of a CSO will squarely depend on the extent of their active participation in the Grand I trio with clearly defined scope and methods as a support function to the Chief Executive.

 

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