• CultureDrivers accelerates strategy execution via "Leading through Empowerment"

  • The challenge

    In an ideal world, executing strategy is easy: First you decide what outcomes are important. Then, you plan how to achieve those outcomes. And finally, you execute the plan by taking actions.
    Easy, right?

    The concept of friction

    A range of factors can complicate things and make strategy execution difficult:
    People are not mindless robots. As human beings, we have all sorts of biases and personal interests that impact what we do. And, when we act under complicated circumstances, emotion and stress add to the unpredictability of our human behavior.
    If we also act in complex environments, where shared references are lacking, then misunderstandings will most likely impact our conversations and decisions.
    If we, on top of that, need to act in a changing environment, then strategy execution becomes very difficult.

    The 3 gaps

    These complicating factors manifest themselves as three critical gaps:

    1. The knowledge gap: The difference between what we would like to know and what we actually know.
    2. The alignment gap: The difference between what we want other people to do and what they actually do.
    3. The effects gap: The difference between what we expect our actions to achieve and what they actually achieve.


    The 3 traps

    If we do not mitigate the three gaps, we will find ourselves increasingly frustrated - and can easily fall into one or more of these three traps:
    1. Trap 1: Ask for more detailed information. We react to the knowledge gap by looking for more information. But, as perfect information rarely exists, we often end up slowing things down.
    2. Trap 2: Provide more detailed instructions. We react to the alignment gap by adding detailed instructions to the tasks. But this just tells people to turn off their brains and blindly follow instructions, which is rarely what we want.
    3. Trap 3: Impose more detailed controls. We react to the effects gap, and a failure to achieve what we want, by tightening up control processes and maybe even adding additional KPIs. This just makes people focus on getting through the next review instead of directing their energies towards customers and trying to achieve the outcomes.

    Approach: Leading through Empowerment

    The approach of Leading through Empowerment is based on a well proven fact: Most people want to make a positive difference in their work and are willing to invest all their skills and efforts if they get the opportunity.


    Sadly, in most organizations, a lot of this human potential is wasted. Either because our processes have grown too complex and hard to relate to, or because people do not really feel psychologically safe and empowered.


    Leading through Empowerment is designed to get more people involved in making decisions close to their work. The approach offers true empowerment by moving the responsibility to the people who do the work.

    Conventional wisdom

    The key to Leading through Empowerment is to work with the dynamics of autonomy and alignment.
    Autonomy and alignment are usually seen as opposites that we must choose between: Either we choose high alignment, or we choose high autonomy – or we pick a balance in-between.

    The opportunity

    But there is a better way of addressing this. Under the right circumstances, we can have high alignment and high autonomy at the same time. If this is achieved, everyone is working towards the same outcomes, while using the freedom their autonomy gives them to make independent decisions. This is what Leading through Empowerment is all about.
    The first thing is alignment. If all team members fully understand the intent (the what and the why), we can loosen up operational control, allowing team members to take responsibility for how things get done.

    Leader responsibilities: Intent & support


    Leaders who want to Lead through Empowerment must deliver on two disciplines:


    Keep everyone focused on the intent
    It is the leaders’ responsibility to be crisp and specific about the intent: What is the essence of what we (the team or project) want to achieve? Why is this important? The leaders are accountable for ensuring that the intent is aligned with the overall strategy.


    Some of the most essential qualities of leaders who are strong at driving intent are::

    • Acting with clear priorities
    • Communicating effectively
    • Demonstrating passion for our shared vision
    • Making clear what is most important
    • Being forward-thinking
    • Always acting in the best interest of the entire business

    Support the team to grow and thrive
    The leaders are responsible for developing a diverse team of people with the relevant competencies and the will to make decisions. Furthermore, the leaders are in charge of maintaining an inclusive and healthy environment based on trust and psychological safety.
    Some of the most essential qualities of leaders who can create a supportive environment are:

    • Being authentic
    • Being constructive even when the way forward is not clear
    • Contributing to a healthy atmosphere
    • Seeking to understand the thoughts and feelings of others
    • Being supportive
    • Being available when needed


    Goal: Strong playfield

    Creating a strong playfield
    The leaders efforts on intent and support aim at one goal: Creating a strong playfield. The playfield is a metaphor for where the work gets done.


    On a strong playfield, boundaries for the work are set, with clear processes and defined roles and responsibilities. The team members are self-organized with very little need for day-to-day management from the leader and absolutely no micro-management.


    CultureDrivers accelerates strategy execution via "Leading through Empowerment"

    CultureDrivers’ strategic partner Stephen Bungay, author of the renowned book “The Art of Action” is a leading global expert in “Leading through Empowerment”

    CultureDrivers has worked closely over several years with Stephen Bungay to turn Bungay's theories and practices into a set of practical tools and processes that can support roll outs in large organizations: Solid theory, well proven templates and digital tools that can be scaled out broadly.


    For an overview of the toolbox, please send an email to CEO/Founder Flemming Fog - and you will recieve a copy of the "Leading through Empowerment Playbook".

    More information: Contact CEO/Founder Flemming Fog