Is Your C-Suite Working As A Team?

In the VUCA world in which we now operate many businesses have become more agile, networked, and team-centric in order to respond to the challenges of more competition and digital disruption. However, up to now, many of these approaches have been implemented in functional areas like sales and operations, and the C-suite has been left unchanged. However, this is all about to change.

The Deloitte 2018 Global Human Capital Trends Survey identified ten common themes that are keeping global business leaders awake at night, and the overwhelming winner was the lack of alignment and collaboration at board level (the C-Suite). 85% of survey respondents rated collaboration in the boardroom as the most important or very important pressing human capital issue they face, whilst a further 73% agreed that often the C-suite work in isolation from the rest of the business. Clearly, then, the C-suite needs to adapt from being independent C-level functional experts working in silos to become a team that work in harmony together to direct the overall strategy of the organisation.

Deloitte have coined the phrase “the symphonic C-Suite” to describe this new collaborative, team-based executive model, which brings together multiple functions, project teams, and resources who all need to work in harmony and collaborate together in order to achieve success. This contrasts with the cacophony of experts that typify many boards, who sound great alone but not together.

In the dynamic environment in which business now operates, a symphonic C-suite makes a great deal of sense, as it allows leadership teams to tackle issues that no single function can adequately explain. It enables the leadership to be shared, which is a common theme that we see in nature. For example, wild herds of horses share the leadership role of the herd, and different horses step into the leadership role depending on the situation the herd finds themselves in.

And increasingly in business we are seeing the need for shared leadership because, if an executive team does not operate as an integrated decision making unit, then they risk moving too slowly and are not able to exploit new technologies and opportunities that appear in the shifting marketplace.

How might a symphonic C-suite configure itself to address some of today’s business challenges?

No one doubts that today’s consumer is more demanding than ever. They want a seamless solution that enables them to browse, select, and buy products online and then have them delivered straight to their home. This is a great example of where the chief marketing officer needs to work closely with the chief information officer and possibly the Customer Services Manager so that the front, middle, and back office systems all converge to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Likewise, as work gets redesigned to integrate robotics and artificial intelligence technologies, business will need to capitalize on new employment models that advocate the use of gig workers and freelancers. In this scenario, the chief human resources officer will need to partner with the chief information officer and possibly the purchasing manager to ensure that all these new business partners have access to the resources they need to enable them to deliver their service.

So where do you start to get the C-suite working as a team?

  1. Review priorities of each C-suite member and determine how they can have a broader impact on the organisation.
  2. Prioritise cross-disciplinary projects so strategic alliances can be formed.
  3. Raise awareness of the importance of collaboration to the rest of the organisation and model the way in how to execute this.

One thing is clear that, if the C-suite is to become more aligned and operate more collaboratively as a team, then C-suite executives need to learn how to increase their influence and impact. No longer will they succeed through the use of authority; but rather, they need to create followership amongst their peers, which means assessing the potential of leaders in new ways.

Is your organization ready to embrace this change and create a Symphonic C-Suite? If not, you are not alone, as only 54% of respondents to Deloitte’s survey cited being ready!