Blueprint or Wallpaper: The Challenges of Selling Your GBS Strategy to the Team

By July 9, 2023Latest, Viewpoints
Selling GBS strategy can be like a blueprint -- clearly marked -- or wallpaper -- without discernable guiance.

Blueprint or wallpaper: how is the team seeing your GBS strategy?

Your stakeholders seem to be willing to embrace a more comprehensive model, embracing new scope and moving even more work offshore. The enterprise’s CXOs are pushing an imperative for digitization, giving your GBS initiatives real coattails to grab onto. A white shoe strategy firm or one of the Big 4 has helped you develop an all-singing, all-dancing global business services blueprint that harnesses the latest GBS thinking. You’ve cobbled together some beautiful PowerPoints communicating the whys and wherefores of your next evolution.

Yet you don’t think your senior managers are on board. Why? Their eyes glaze over when you talk about a GBS strategic blueprint, thinking that it is just a piece of wallpaper.

I’ve seen this movie before. Gorgeous, sensible up-to-date GBS strategy; a senior team that won’t wear it on their tee-shirts. For a leader invested in the growth and change that drives GBS value, it can be hard to accept that the team is not on board; after all, setting GBS strategy is his/her prerogative. If the team isn’t behind it, it can be seen as a personal failure of leadership.

But without a strategic blueprint that everyone embraces, GBS models can turn into endangered species. The status quo is not an option.

So I asked myself, why is it often hard for GBS team members to get on the bandwagon?

  • Black box development – When the development of a GBS strategy is a private pas-de-deux between the boss and the strategy lead, it can be hard for the rest of the leadership team to take any ownership or even a high level of interest. Springing it on them as a fait accompli is a sure-fire way to create a not-invented here response.
  • Non-GBS natives – Often, GBS organizations are comprised of a majority of team members who came up through the enterprise ranks. They may be unfamiliar with the model’s imperative for survival—growth.
  • What’s in it for me? – Self-concern is a strong motivator to embrace a change in strategy. If a GBS blueprint does not highlight opportunities such as increased responsibility or new career paths, it can be hard for team members to make a personal investment.
  • No skin in the game – Since most GBS organizations focus individual performance on operational goals and objectives rather than strategic, the successful implementation of strategy may be seen as the responsibility of top leadership rather than that of every manager.
  • Pie in the sky – For team members facing daily operational challenges—recalcitrant stakeholders, missed deadlines, delivery center attrition—a GBS strategy can seem like an aspirational nice-to-have, not a roadmap for model maturity and survival.
  • Too complicated – GBS strategies with too many moving pieces—organizational changes, new delivery center locations, transformation projects, technology deployment—become daunting propositions for even the most sophisticated of GBS professionals. If there is no clearly delineated line of sight as to how each component adds up to a new stage of maturity, team members can tune out.
  • Competing initiatives – With today’s pace of business change, it’s likely that the team is juggling the implementation of a number of programs, often disconnected. A new GBS strategy that does not connect the dots can be seen as the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Sure, it’s a daunting list of derailers, but savvy GBS leaders know how to help their team understand and embrace evolving strategies as a given. Here are eight tactics to ensure that the strategy sticks.

  • Promote a living strategy – Change is a GBS constant, so big initiative, once-in-a-blue moon, big bang strategies may prove ineffective. Focus on changing tactics as business conditions change, rather than strategic tenets to ensure the team is consistently aligned.
  • Have a formal, visible strategic planning process – If the organization likes to manage by scheduling strategic planning projects rather than embedding processes, it’s critical to promote transparency. Ensuring that strategic planning processes are incorporated in the GBS calendar, that outputs are shared on a timely basis, and that there is plenty of opportunity for contribution and comment is vital to success.
  • Personally engage key GBS stakeholders – We take the time to engage with our key business stakeholders; when it comes to a change or evolution of strategy, leaders owe their key managers the same courtesy—soliciting feedback and gaining commitment on a one-on-one basis.
  • Create a strategy cascade – Everyone in the organization needs to understand the current GBS strategy, what needs to change, and what it means for them personally. Town halls are great for the organization (but ensure that key leaders don’t see the strategy for the first time on a Teams call).
  • Solicit tailwinds and headwinds – The entirety of the team, not a few leaders, will make your strategy a reality. Ask them for structured input, and if they feel they can’t or won’t contribute, ask them to stress test the blueprint by identifying tailwinds—what will make the strategy implementable, and headwinds—what will derail the strategy. No one can identify opportunities and challenges better than those with their feet on the ground.
  • Seed the strategy with the business – If team members can triangulate the GBS strategy with what their business stakeholders are saying, it gives its tenets and imperatives credence as opposed to being seen as a hypothetical leadership exercise.
  • Tie personal metrics into the delivery of strategic goals – Behaviors align with rewards and recognition. Expanding each team member’s metrics to include the support for or delivery of strategic goals will go a long way.
  • Deliver GBS strategy through an OGSM or similar – (For the unfamiliar, OGSM refers to objectives, goals, strategies, and measures). Far too often, GBS strategies are great blueprints, but don’t harness tools that promote implementation. Embedding common success factors, such as clarity on what needs to be achieved and how it is measured through a formal program, gives life and meaning to a blueprint.

So the next time your team’s eyes glaze over when you mention the imperative for a new GBS strategy, perhaps it’s time to think about it differently. Making the process transparent, aligned with performance, and part of the GBS routine will go a long way toward making GBS organizations agile, responsible, and valuable.