Two issues seem to be severely afflicting corporations today: how to survive gracefully in this uncongenial business environment and how to sustain leadership amidst growing competition, not to mention disenchanted customers.
Together, both problems account for CEOs’ truncated tenures, firings, and frequent successions.
CEOs need support for these issues from their core executive team, but today’s team is at best geared to deal with what’s happening today or in the near future, not what will happen in the distant future.
Here are three roles that every CEO should introduce to get the support they need:
Also known as the "Crystal Ball Gazer," the CRO’s primary job is to reimagine issues, internal as well as external, and translate the abstracts into concrete actionables.
Your CRO should focus on identifying the organizational slack that needs picking up, reimagine how and where opportunities will manifest, how customer insights need to be captured, how business planning needs to change, how employees need to be engaged differently, and how risks need to be mitigated.
Through this endless list, the corporate way of thinking, doing, and learning needs to be reimagined.
The key responsibilities of CRO should be:
- Sensing behaviors and attitudes that are getting stale
- Observing patterns that are becoming outdated
- Identifying inefficiencies building in the system
- Picking up mindsets that are limiting and not expanding
- Capturing aura which is creating negativity
In essence, the CRO’s job is to craft strategic change agendas and draw the CEO and board’s attention to galvanizing powerful movements.
Prepare before you perish: Kodak, Research in Motion, and Nokia all ignored this powerful message and paid the price, either partially or completely.
These companies saw the writing on the wall, but they did not act proactively. Why? They could not embrace the paradigms on the horizon.
Identifying, tracking, and embracing new paradigms is a full-time job now, and the CEO or anyone else on his core team cannot do it single-handedly.
We need a Chief Paradigm Officer, whose primary job is to identify the emerging paradigms that can sweep organizations off their feet if ignored. He is essentially the CEO’s scout and must spot change, capture its essence, and alert the CEO to the potential dangers of overlooking them.
The key responsibilities of CPO should be:
- Intuiting the unexpressed or unimagined aspirations of customers, stakeholders, and employees
- Conjecturing the future extrapolations of emerging technologies, amidst vast array of industries and contexts
- Integrative thinking to capture the tacit interplay between the latent aspirations and emerging technologies
- Broad scanning of opportunities, challenges, and enablers that will bridge the gaps
- Influencing and building conviction on emerging paradigms through analytical as well as anecdotal thought process, a critical aspect as they will have to deal with the left brainers as well as right brainers in building convictions
The CPOs will envision the potential synergies, cross-pollinations of practices, and technologies across industries to create new business propositions.
Think of the conflict that the CEOs will have to face when the CROs are vying for their attention on how the organization needs to think, behave, and shape up. And on the other side the CPOs are trying to shift the CEO’s focus on the future for engendering response to the new paradigms.
This is breeding ground for paradoxes that consume significant bandwidth of top leadership. Most organizations will generally avoid such situations and will rather align with one over the other. But companies don’t really have the choice to land in a situation or avoid it. We are invariably led by market forces and changing contexts.
It is here that the CPXO comes in: it is her responsibility to balance the focus between reimagination and response to paradigms. Her job is to identify the exact paradox and articulate it in such a manner that the top leadership sees viable opportunities for growth rather than the distractions.
CPXOs can perfectly blend the perspectives of emerging paradigms and convert the paradoxes into opportunities for innovation. They need to create structures that can naturally apportion time, energy, and sponsorship of top leadership.
The key responsibilities of CPXOs should be:
- Identifying paradoxes and managing the battles of attention, resources and sponsorship
- Seeing a whole new range of possibilities that are relevant for current as well as future
- Surfacing potentially dormant conflicts, which can later become deep-rooted
- Unraveling contradictions and proactively ironing them out
These new roles are absolutely imperative to enable CEOs and boards to fight the war of competition and sustainability.
Such a federation can build a collective breath and holistic mindshare to embrace the paradigms and effectively deal with the paradoxes.
—Himanshu Saxena is Vice President and Head of Strategy Alignment, Balanced Scorecard and Business Coach at Tata Consultancy Services.
[Image: Flickr user Eli Christman]