Center for Leading Organizations

Areas of FocusWe work with staff departments such as Finance, IT, Procurement, HR and others to help make them more effective both internally and in serving the firm at large.

There is a critical distinction between a staff unit doing great work on behalf of the business and being a great staff department.

That skillset, of superb execution on behalf of the business is, of course, an essential starting point. However, superb staff execution is simply not enough. Being a superb staff department requires far more, in terms of how it is organized, how it is managed, and how it is led. It requires thoughtful, ongoing attention to how work is allocated, how people are recruited and developed, and how people view and deliver their work.

Examples of the staff functions with which we work:

Strategic Planning/ M & A
Internal Advising
Real Estate

All of these elements, when combined with doing great work, can lift the staff department into a category that helps differentiate the company overall, and measurably contribute to that entity’s ability to generate a sustainable competitive advantage.

Corporate and Staff Department Advisory Examples

Here are some specific examples of our work in this area:

  • Structuring and facilitating a leadership offsite for the internal audit function of one of the world’s largest financial services firms. Their big issue was how to strike a balance between programmed, planned strategic and operational goals and the requisite “fire-fighting.” We found a way to address the issue.

  • Developing an overall skillset and architecture for the top 200 HR directors of a global 50 company. We focused on the ancillary skills sought by the leaders of the SBUs, such as:
    • Business and financial acumen
    • Strategic thinking
    • Formulating and articulating persuasive business cases
    • Consultative skills

While a series of two-day programs is a central part of the effort, it also includes follow-up events and on-line tools.

  • Creating high-impact one-day sessions for IT leaders on building the skills to be an internal trusted advisor to the business units of this global organization of 50,000+ employees.

  • Serving as the resident advisor and facilitator to the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) of a $3.2 billion procurement function. The engagement has included six meetings per year, along with regular and irregular sessions with the function head and various SLT members on issues of organizational design and individual effectiveness.

Thought Leadership and Experience

Our thought leadership in the area of staff functions includes an upcoming book on how great staff departments support great companies.

In 1998 we wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review with the somewhat provocative title "Why Doesn't This HR Department Get Any Respect?" That fictionalized case outlined the challenges faced by a new head of HR in trying to expand the role of the human resources department from being purely administrative to having significant input in recruiting, development, and strategic planning.

Truth be told, the piece didn’t need to target HR in the title. It could have been any staff department

Our experience isn’t just academic. We’ve actually held jobs and led functions in areas such as procurement and HR.


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