Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Who Should Be Responsible for Developing Strategy for an Organization?

As I read the materials for weeks 6 & 7 and looked through the lecture notes, I started to think not just about how strategy is developed, but who is responsible for development. I identified an article by Joe Shepley titled “Do We Really Need a Chief Strategy Officer?” Shepley is a former college professor who left academia for what he calls “the real world.” Shepley sought to solve problems with strategy, and after some time in various corporate jobs in the tech sector, began focusing solely on corporate strategy engagements. Shepley has worked with over fifty Global 2000 clients and observed first-hand their culture and their leaders at work, succeeding and failing, at their best and at their worst.

In his article, Shepley considers whether it is necessary for organizations to address strategy through a dedicated department that answers to one individual, the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO). Shepley first researched LinkedIn for a variety of CXO titles. His results are as follows:

There is a noticeable gap between Chief Information Officers (CIO)and CSOs. The breach between CIOs CSOs illustrates the demarcation between what corporations consider indispensible and the “optional” CXO’s, those executives who are great to have but are not considered fundamentally necessary unless circumstances require them.

Shepley contends that this fact does not imply that corporations are not concerned with strategy; as we have learned in this class, companies spend a great deal of time and resources on developing strategy (some better than others). Rather, he posits that organizations are just not sure how a CSO would fit into the rest of their executive board. Creating a new non-organic role at an organization would have many consequences and effects and could cause organizational turbulence. Questions would have to be answered such as: would there be a dedicated team of strategists, a matrixed team drawn from the rest of the organization, some hybrid of the two?

Shepley does not have a definitive answer on whether a CSO is necessary or not. He does caution that use of a CSO r

equires a clear idea of exactly how the CSO will be involved (or not involved) in all the day-to-day, distributed strategy going on at the organization at all levels. If this is not clearly established or executed the consequences range from adding needless bureaucracy to completely undermining how the organization develops strategy.

Shepley puts forward several great questions in his article. But the question I pose is: Generally speaking, do corporations need a CSO; that is, one individual tasked with leading the strategy development and implementation? If they do, how does the CSO fit into the organization’s strategy development, specifically the planning cycle as depicted in the Week #6 lecture slides?


Shepley, Joe. “Do we really need a Chief Strategy Officer?” The Intentional Leader. March 8, 2011.

Zak, Tim. “Typical Corporate Planning Cycle” Strategy Development Fall 2011 Lecture Notes -Week #6.

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