The Executive Sponsor has 2 primary functions.
- To cast vision.
- To help overcome barriers that normal policies and budgets of the operating teams cannot overcome. I call this “lifting the organization over the speed bumps”.
Casting Vision made simple:
I will say one thing that is imperative about the casting of vision. It must be short. If “the Vision” cannot be repeated by those to whom it is cast, then the vision has not been effectively cast. It’s that simple.
In a Relationship between 2 organizations, if the “Shared Vision” cannot be stated exactly the same by each Executive Sponsor, then the vision is not shared. It’s that simple.
Therefore, develop and use short Vision Statements. Short Vision statements typically have no conjunctions. Conjunctions are connecting words such as “and”, “but,” “or,” “nor,” “for,” “so,” or “yet”. It is a single vision, not a list of visions. Therefore, no conjunctions.
Comment on Vision and Mission Statements:
Visions must also be repeated over and over again. The Executive Sponsor must be “on message” at all times, tying back all that is said to the vision that is cast. Many of the largest companies today state their Vision Statements inadvertently in preface to their Mission Statement. Vision Statements are long term, generally broad, and rarely changed. Mission Statements often speak of several areas that must be accomplished in the next 5 years to advance the Vision. Mission Statements are then often broken down to yearly goals. A good example is Ford Motor Company.
Ford: “To be relevant and profitable for the future” (Vision) “One Team, One Plan, One Goal” (Mission) Then it breaks down into goals. http://retailindustry.about.com/od/retailbestpractices/ig/Company-Mission-Statements/Ford-Motor-Mission-Statement.htm
An example of too many conjunctions is Google, Inc. http://www.google.com/about/company/
Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” Really? It takes 3 “ands” to cast Google’s vision? Three “ands” are as hard to remember as a Google search hit on the second page.
GE: “A relentless drive to invent and build things that matter” (Vision) This unofficial vision statement has a conjunction but is well-stated, broad and enduring vision statement. However, being engineering driven all-inclusive culture, GE not only tinkers with the Vision statement but puts it into an equation that is sure to not be able to be repeated called The GE Works Equation
“We look at what the world needs. X[times] (A belief in a better way + A relentless drive to invent and build things that matter.) = a world that works better. ” Maybe this complexity of vision is why GE’s performance so far down from its early 2000’s highs.
Lifting over Speed Bumps:
The second function of the Executive Sponsor is to lift the organization over speed bumps. Speed bumps include limitations due to finite resources, such as finances or manpower, or policy limitation. Examples of Speed Bumps are the following:
- The decision to invest in a particular marketing or manufacturing initiative in a Relationship may be sound, yet the spending authority limit of the executive responsible for such may be below what is required to participate in the initiative.
- The history of the organization is to always have its annual meeting at a particular location. However, if the meeting is going to allow for inclusion of team members from the other party to the Relationship, then it will have to be moved to a different location. Sometimes even such an unwritten policy as “we always meet here” needs the Executive Sponsor to lift the organization over the speed bump.
- A company may have a policy not to private label its product. An opportunity exists within a Relationship to do so and it will go a long way towards achieving a Long Term Goal. However, since the company has never private labeled its products before and has a policy against such, the Executive Sponsor will need to be involved in this decision.
An Executive Sponsor is the person who can decide to allocate resources outside of budget or can override a standard policy decision allowing the right thing to be done in a timely way to advance the goals of the Relationship.
Keeping the Executive Sponsor within their role and not impeding the progress of the Relationship is the topic of the next blog posting.