A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Conference in San Francisco with three members of our executive team. For my CEO, VP of Sales, and VP of Business Development, the event was an opportunity to introduce our brand to a targeted group of potential customers and partners and to connect with some of our existing customers who would be in attendance. For me, as a member of the marketing team, it was a tremendous opportunity to learn about the Chief Strategy Officer persona.
For years, our company targeted strategic planners in healthcare organizations, for the simple reason that the strategy persona consistently existed in the healthcare space. As part of compliance measures and healthcare management best practices, healthcare organizations have to undertake massive strategic planning endeavors. Along with annual strategic plans, these organizations also have three and five-year strategic plans, with accompanying departmental strategic plans. Our software was originally purpose-built to help healthcare strategy leaders manage these massive strategic undertakings as it is fundamental to how these organizations operate.
Today, we help empower strategic leaders across the healthcare, education, and commercial spaces. As it turns out, every business develops and executes a strategic plan. Though each of these industry segments approaches strategic planning differently, each uses its strategic plan as the foundation of all business decisions made in the company throughout the year.
The CSO conference afforded me a unique chance: The speakers were the most senior strategy leaders of some of the world’s most recognized brands (News Corp, Navistar, Boeing, and SunTrust to name a few). And for two days, they were going to tell me exactly how the Chief Strategy Officer persona uses strategy to inform company operations, and what they hope to see on the horizon of strategy innovation.
The Archetypes of a Strategist
Before the conference, our VP of Sales, Preston, sent me an HBR article titled, “What Makes a Great Chief Strategy Officer?” The authors had some great points that included moving beyond strategic planning, developing signature strengths, and becoming masters of prioritization. But what really caught my eye was their discussion of the five archetypes of a strategist, which are:
Architects: With a deep understanding of the company’s core strengths, architects can look at industry shifts and position the company to capitalize accordingly.
Visionaries: Core strengths include trend forecasting and a mind for innovation
Surveyors: Always looking on the horizon, surveyors are able to spot organizational risk in the future, and create action plans accordingly
Mobilizers: Skillful in building organizational capacity to execute strategies
Fund Managers: Experts in resource allocation and portfolio analysis
What’s interesting about these archetypes is how unique, disconnected, yet vital, each of their qualities are. It seemed to me that finding a Chief Strategy Officer who encapsulates all of these qualities is kind of like finding a unicorn in your backyard.
Who is the Strategy Unicorn?
Despite what seems to be an impossible skill set to find in an individual, the strategy unicorn does exist, and every successful company seems to have one. These CSOs have a deep background in leadership and strategic planning (many times stemming from a military background) and are adept at both situational planning and resource allocation. They are not only well versed in corporate strategy but have deep connections within every business unit of a company. Often, they have strategy managers within each business unit who report directly to them, allowing the CSO to keep a pulse on strategy execution across the organization. And they report directly to the CIO and CEO. They are architects, visionaries, surveyors, mobilizers, and fund managers.
But I learned one more thing about the strategy unicorn which should be added to the list of strategist archetypes. Strategy unicorns are experts at change management. In addition to situational planning for the future, and positioning the company for long-term success, CSOs are charged with responding to market changes in real-time. They must create dynamic strategies that can be deployed quickly across the organization. It is no small task, especially given the common catalysts for change initiatives like industry disruption, management restructuring, changes in the geopolitical landscape, and changes in legislation. It is quite a request, but CSOs are up to the task.
I left the conference with an elevated understanding of the Chief Strategy Officer persona and the daunting challenges they face on a daily basis. But I also left with peace of mind. Whether you are an architect, visionary, surveyor, mobilizer, fund manager, or change manager, AchieveIt has a unique feature set that empowers each of these archetypes to execute strategy brilliantly.
I slept like a baby my entire flight home, dreaming of all the strategy unicorns that would be using AchieveIt by year’s end.