Andrew Campbell, Mikel Gutierrez

Strategies rarely say much about specific operations. In fact, when a strategy is complete, there are usually many questions left to be answered: what do you want me to do? by when? how much will this cost? do we have the budget? do I have clearance to hire extra people? what IT changes are needed? what can be outsourced? what new skills will we need? and so forth. Rather than delegating all these choices to lower levels, top teams should provide some broad answers to guide the functional specialists, who make the more detailed choices.

If the top team try to make all the choices, they can easily become overwhelmed.

The sheer volume of decisions makes delegation to lower levels essential. Moreover, leaders recognize that many of the decisions should be made by managers with close knowledge of the operations, which can mean pushing some decisions three, four or five levels down the hierarchy.

Unfortunately, managers further down the hierarchy will not necessarily grasp the nuance of thought that lies behind the strategy; making it hard for them to align their choices with it. Moreover, the perspectives of individual members of the top team will vary according to geography, product focus, or function. They may give slightly different interpretations to their teams. Without a blueprint guiding these operational choices, the result can be a patchwork quilt of decisions rather than a single weave aligned with the strategy.

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