How powerful is the team you are joining?

How powerful is the team you are joining?

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Summary

For some companies, strategy team is a high-ranking, elite group with the power to make the Board listen. For others, far less so. Discover why this matters and how to measure the importance of the team you’re potentially joining.

Every so often, people get in touch with us asking for career advice. Without wanting to turn it into a full-time job, we’re happy to help if we can and always try to schedule a call or a meeting. Hopefully, the candidates find our chats useful and, if nothing else, they help to inspire our blog posts. This morning I met with a very talented lady who’d started her career in FMCG before joining a consulting firm. She wasn’t loving the consulting lifestyle and had been approached by a fashion label about a consumer insights job. She had only been with the consulting firm for 6 months and was wondering what to do. We spoke about a number if issues: whether it was a CV problem to leave a job after only 6 months; whether she was likely to start enjoying the consulting more; what she wanted to get out of a post-consulting job. However, the one thing that really seemed to hit home – and something that she hadn’t considered – was the importance of understanding the balance of power in the organisation you might join. If you’re leaving consulting, you’re probably looking at roles in a strategy/business development team or a sub-section thereof (such as consumer insight). But not all organisations treat this function the same. For some, it is a high-ranking, elite group with the power to make the Board listen. For others, far less so.

Why does this matter? I think there are two good reasons

Firstly, most people view a job in “strategy” as a stepping stone to something more operational. So if you join a team that’s well respected and empowered, you will work with more parts of the business and more senior people in those business units. The upshot is that you’ll find it easier to network your way out of strategy and into a more senior operational role within 18months. And even if you can’t network your way out, if you’re clear with your boss (i.e., the Strategy Director) about your career goals and he/she is powerful, then he/she will be able to fight your corner strongly. Secondly, the more important the strategy team is to the organisation, the greater the likelihood that your work will be implemented. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than your hard graft going into a document that just sits on the shelf and gathers dust.

If you’re unsure how to measure the importance of the team you can try the following

  • Ask about the organisational structure. If the Strategy Director is on the Board, that’s great. Second best would be your team reporting directly into the COO / CEO. If you’re more removed than that, you have to question how solid a career stepping stone moving to that team will be.
  • Ask in the interview, or during a post-offer chat, for details about recent work that has been implemented. If they can’t name a good few examples from the last 6 months, be worried!
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