A recent MIT Sloan School survey of more than 4,000 managers found that only 28% could correctly list three of their firm's top strategic priorities. Only 28%! Given that, it’s no wonder that even the best laid strategic plans fall flat mid-year and victim to a strategy-execution gap. As Bernard C. Kümmerli, Scott D. Anthony, Markus Messerer wrote in their recent article in Harvard Business Review,
“Advisers are hired, data is gathered, numbers are crunched, and decisions are made. But the seeming consensus doesn’t translate into action. So the process repeats, but the apparent alignment isn’t deep enough to drive real change.”
In their article “Unite Your Senior Team,” the authors mentioned above share key findings based on a case study of Bern-based Swisscom.
In 2016, Swisscom was trapped in a quickly aging industry.
“The global telecom sector was flatlining, with revenue inching up a mere 1% per year and profits and prices under siege. Despite Swisscom’s long track record of innovation—it pioneered international direct-dial telephone service in the 1960s and 2G mobile services in the 1990s, and was instrumental in Switzerland’s having achieved the world’s highest rate of broadband installation—stasis had set in at the $12 billion company. CEO Urs Schaeppi and his senior leaders knew the firm needed to refine its long-term growth strategy for a world transformed by digital technology, but they were divided by disagreement about the best path forward. Some executives were comfortable with slow growth and higher profits through efficiencies; others believed the company needed to move boldly into new markets. ‘There is limited perception of a shared or common agenda,’ one leader noted. Further complicating the strategy choices were Swisscom’s culture and decision-making style. ‘It’s a real Swiss democracy,’ said one executive, referring to the customary Swiss deference to a majority view. ‘We don’t deal well with conflict,’ said another.”
If you’ve ever read "The Innovator’s Dilemma," you know that in confronting disruptive change, the heart of the challenge is a human one.
Read on for an overview of how Swisscom achieved leadership team alignment through a number of leadership conversations enhanced with data visualization that aimed to establish a foundation of common understanding, expose misalignment, and catalyze decision making through physical exercises.