Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Better Management = Better Strategy?


Prior to joining Heinz College, I worked at a reputed financial firm for two years as a Technology Analyst. After reading “Your Strategy Needs a Strategy” by Martin Reeves, Claire Love and Philipp Tillmanns, I noticed how the strategic style of the Chief Information Officer of my line of business was classical, which seemed like a misfit for a financial institute.

The organization was under constant threat to cyber attacks and security breaches, which can’t be predicted but should be relatively easy for the organization to change. But such was not the case. During the security attack of 2014, the CIO followed a run-of-the-mill reactive workflow where the breaches were patched and a root cause analysis was performed and fixed. It seemed like there was a clear mismatch in strategy. An attack of such a high impact had no change to the process and standards we followed.

It was six months after I joined that a new Chief Information Officer was inducted into my line of business. He understood that he needed to employ different strategies in different circumstances. As soon as he was inducted, he shadowed his counterparts for a few weeks. This helped him test the waters and judge how predictable and malleable the environment is before developing a strategy. He clearly took precautions to not fall prey to the strong tendency of overestimating the firm’s capabilities.

A few months after the biggest data breach of the decade, he coined an initiative called DRIVE to introduce a standardization process for the infrastructure team, since it was the recurring point of failure. It helped shape the unpredictable nature of the market to its advantage by making people more accountable and gaining their trust to stick with the organization through the storm.  

                       Delivering stakeholder excellence
                       Risk management
                       Innovation
                       Value standardization
                       Enabling Employees

This initiative was successful in motivating employees, partners and vendors about standardization by conducting Lean Six Sigma trainings and appreciating their process improvement efforts by announcing awards. He understood the concept of how results are not immediate, and about how qualitative change is more important than quantitative change. His focus was not within the boundaries of the company; it also included the consumers, vendors and partners. He knew that a powerful guiding coalition with the support of the stakeholders, vendors and partners would help him fulfill his vision. He followed a more shaping approach in our company unit; acknowledged the volatility of the financial market and knew we had to act quickly to mitigate impact.

The unit he led witnessed the lowest attrition rate of the decade, proof that he had gained the employee’s confidence. The firm’s stock price has been stable even after the breach, denoting that the new strategy has been successful in maintaining the quality of the institution and reassuring its customers.

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results” – Sir Winston Churchill (Red Herrings) [1]


[1] http://www.winstonchurchill.org/support?catid=0&id=1648

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