Category Archives: P3T (People-Processes-Projects-Technology)

Rethinking the Execution of Government Strategy

I was looking through my OneNote research notebooks when I came across this clipping, Why Strategy Execution Unravels—and What to Do About It. Nearly five years old, and the conclusions in the article are even more valid today. The article reminded me of my findings in my dissertation research on the merger of the city archives and the county archives. I was mystified about why the archives merger succeeded despite the change process going against the conventional wisdom of change management theory.

According to the research by the authors (Donald Sull, Rebbeca Homkes, and Charles Sull), the success of strategy execution depends on agility. Agility is defined as how well different parts of the organization coordinate while seizing opportunities aligned with the organization’s strategy. They explain why this is so by dispelling five commonly-held beliefs about strategy execution:

Myth 1 – Execution mean alignment

Myth 2 – Execution means sticking to the plan

Myth 3 – Communication equals understanding

Myth 4 – A performance culture drives execution

Myth 5 – Execution should be driven from the top

People viewing a flip chart.

What most interested me about the article was the importance of organizational agility in executing the strategy. That is why organizational units must have excellent cross-collaboration abilities with each other. Exceptional cross-collaboration skills are how the units can work together in spotting emerging opportunities and work together to take advantage of the possibilities. Organizational agility reminds me of Colonel Boyd’s OODA Loop and his thinking on strategy.

Going back to my dissertation research, I found that the real change in the archives merger was driven by the employees and not the top management. The communicated change vision from the top was general and not enough to develop a detailed plan for the merger. A general change vision from the top corresponds to Sull, Homkes, and Sull’s research finding that strategic execution should not be solely driven from the top.

I also feel confident in reading the HBR article that my decision to combine organizational health with organizational agility is the right way to approach building a new theory of public administration.

A Proposal for a New Organizational Model

I developed a new organizational model after several years of reflection and study, starting with my MBA work in 2001. My Ph.D. work especially inspired me in developing a new model of public leadership and, later, on my study of the lean startup movement.

The new organization is designed to be agile in every aspect of the work products, leadership, and workforce. The organization is also transparent and designed for maximum information flow. Finally, the mission, vision, and strategy are baked into all that the organization does and drives the organization forward. Here is a diagram of the new organizational model.

Look at the upper box with the five chief officers. A common theme in organizational studies is the danger of silos and fiefdoms. There are also problems with forming a senior leadership team that works together for the good of the entire organization. Therefore, in the new organization, only five chief officers form the senior leadership team.

  • The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – chairs the senior leadership team and keeps the organization aligned with the mission and vision by keeping the strategy engine working effectively.
  • The Chief Alliance Officer (CAO) – combines the traditional functions of the chief human resources officer and chief information officer. Responsible for managing the organizational talent and the organizational APIs platform.
  • The Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) – responsible for managing the knowledge and learning the workflow of the organization. It also oversees the training and development of the organization’s talent.
  • The Chief Brand Officer (CBO) – responsible for overseeing the organization’s brand: internally and externally. It helps the CEO manage the public-facing side of the organization’s mission and vision.
  • The Chief P4 Officer (CPO) – Oversees the portfolios, programs, projects, and processes of the organization’s Business Engine.

In the middle of the model is the “Business Engine.” The Business Engine is where the organization does the work. Instead of a factory floor with fixed production lines, the Business Engine is a maker space with both a physical presence and a virtual presence. Work is performed by a network of project teams loosely organized into portfolios and programs. There are few fixed processes, and these processes will be heavily automated using artificial technology systems using blockchain technologies and deep-learning algorithms. The teams will use agile project management, human-centered design, and adaptive case management to manage the work.

Surrounding the Business Engine are four critical components. The most crucial component is the “Talent” box with the four types of employees. These types are based on the Alliance model of employer-employee agreements. At the bottom is the Organizational APIs Platform, in which the core APIs that run the business infrastructure is available for the talent and teams to build their personalized tools and apps. Surrounding the Business Engine on both sides are open data streams that provide the performance metrics of the organization and allows for easy knowledge-sharing and collaboration in the organization. Embedded in the Business Engine are strategy information radiators (Ambient Strategy). The strategy information radiators provide regularly updated information on how well the organization is fulfilling the mission, vision, and strategic goals.

Pulling the organization forward is the “Strategy Engine.” On top of the Strategy Engine is the “Mission and Vision” alignment compass, which helps align all the organization’s activities toward the mission, vision, and strategic goals. What powers the planning process for the Strategy Engine are the twin concepts of organizational agility and organizational health.

There is a lot of this model borrowed and a lot that is new. I don’t believe there is an organization that follows this model, but many organizations could benefit from adopting parts of the model. I look forward to expanding upon the parts of the new organizational model. I welcome your comments, criticisms, and suggestions.