February 22, 2012
Staff Picks: Who’s in the Room?
There is a misconception in American business that Bob Frisch says is getting in the way of getting things done and hewants to correct it. That’s the misconception that senior management teams, or SMTs, make the decisions in business today. I may have shocked or surprised you with that statement, but if you have ever asked, or been asked, “Why wasn’t I in the room,” then you’ve had a taste of the challenge. Frisch outlines it all, as well as what to do about it, in his book, Who’s in the Room? How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them. Frisch, a managing partner with strategy consultancy, The Strategic Offsites Group, has worked with many organizations, including Fortune 500 companies to family businesses and even the Federal government. He advocates the radical step of unseating the SMT as the “epicenter of decision making.” In writing of the real way decisions are made in businesses, he says:
“The senior team may be consulted or informed, but the most important decisions are rarely made by a group like this sitting around a conference table. Instead, the organization leader typically calls in an inner core of intimate advisors–a kitchen cabinet– along with any other individuals who might shed light on a specific situation. It is this team with no name–ad hoc, unofficial, and flexible in makeup–that is the group in the rom as the actual decisions get made. Yet we all persist in believing that the senior team should be the forum for decision-making. It can be a destructive belief.Frisch Recommends that the role of the SMT in guiding the president or CEO (the person at the top) begin by calling on the SMT to advise on three areas, leaving the ad hoc teams to advise on more specific challenges, issues and opportunities. The SMT should advise on: • Developing a shared view of where the organization needs to go and why. • Managing a prioritized set of strategic initiatives designed to get there. • Managing dependencies within and among initiatives to ensure their success. In short, he says the three areas are vision, allocation of resources, and execution–what he says are three of the most critical responsibilities of top leadership. Frisch believes that this will leave the company with “the right teams addressing the right issues at the right time, a renewed sense of collective purpose for the organization’s, most senior and valued leaders, and, most importantly, bosses seeing the end to people asking, “Why wasn’t I in the room?” Frisch draws on his many years of experience working with companies and provides plenty of examples of how to get advisory teams and groups aligned with their purposes so that confusion regarding roles and the appropriate areas on which each group should advise the boss on. Who’s in the Room? is a great guide for any leader to use in mapping out his or her advisory teams and get the company working in the same direction.