Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Chief of Staff - A Force Multiplier (Part II)

In last week’s posting about the Chief of Staff role, I cited James Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche, as an example of someone who rose to the top of the organizational chart by serving in a Chief of Staff role early in his D&T career. I also quoted Quigley as saying that he currently has three individuals reporting to him who function in Chief of Staff capacities.

Today, I would like to examine some of the specific functional roles a good Chief of Staff should be able to perform on behalf of the C-level executive being supported. My observations are based upon a composite of several Fortune 500 companies with whom I have discussed Chief of Staff roles over the course of the past few months. These companies include leaders in Consumer Packaged Goods, Electronic Trading, "Big Box" Retail, Consulting and Telecommunications industries. For the sake of the example below, we will assume that the Chief of Staff (COS) is supporting the CEO, although the same principles can be applied in supporting a COB, COO, CIO, CFO, etc.

· The Chief of Staff Role does not replace the role of a good Executive Assistant. The COS and the EA work hand-in-hand to ensure that the CEO’s time is planned and expended with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

· The COS is best used in tracking strategic initiatives by monitoring progress towards meeting goals and achieving benchmarks, analyzing data, ensuring follow-through on the part of key players, and sustaining momentum needed to drive these initiatives.

· The COS reviews action items decided upon at each strategic meeting. He/she prepares a written summary, checks with each attendee to get sign-off on agreed-upon dates of completion and confirms the party responsible for following up on each action item.

· Between meetings, the COS stays connected with members of the committee, collecting data, alerting the CEO to progress or problems in carrying out the initiatives agreed upon.

· The COS creates and operates a reporting system that allows for a timely flow of necessary data into the office of the CEO from all relevant departments and direct reports.

· The COS assists the CEO in developing communication between committee meetings, setting agendas, creating initial drafts of communications to key strategic team members, helping to prioritize plans for addressing issues that are impacting progress towards initiative benchmarks.

· The COS serves as a first alert system – an extra set of eyes and ears – keeping the CEO aware of unanticipated problems to be addressed or opportunities to be considered.

· The COS develops and oversees a process for capturing, cataloging, analyzing and disseminating key lessons to be learned from initiatives, with a view towards helping the CEO propagate best practices throughout the enterprise.

· The COS functions in the role of “ambassador” for the CEO, buffering communication with other members of the strategic team in cases where there are sensitive issues to be addressed.

Here is an example of this role in practice:

COS calls Brand Manager for Brand XYZ:

“Tony, this is Sharon. We agreed that next Tuesday you would meet with Bob to report on progress in changing the packaging. You mentioned in your weekly report that your design team is three weeks behind in agreeing upon a new package. I know that Bob is very concerned that if we can’t deliver the next packaging on schedule, we are going to lose more market share. I know your meeting next Tuesday will go well if you come with a specific plan for how to get this project back on track before the next Board meeting. See you Tuesday at 9:00."

It would take a pretty extraordinary individual to be able to juggle all of these balls, satisfy all of the key stake holders, massage sensitive egos and do it all with efficiency and grace. And such an extraordinary individual would have to be content and fulfilled serving in a “support role.” Where would one find such an individual? I will address these issues in my next COS posting.

1 comment:

Matthew Drahzal said...

A similar role which I have noticed to be critical is the "Deputy Program Manager" who supports the overall Program Manager in large scale mil-aero development. The best Program Managers always have a knack for surrounding themselves with excellent Deputies. Managing schedules, deliveries, and dependencies, the DPM has his or her finger on the pulse of the project - and is a powerful ally when making resource and priority decisions.