Though it may seem unlikely, all organizations hold one goal in common, and that is to change. Aside from their distinct values or mission, all organizations seek to change at least some facet of whom they serve or the means under which they operate. Companies that create and sell products aim to solve their customers’ practical problems, continuously innovate, and increase production. Not-for-profit organizations facilitate positive change for the causes and communities for which they exist. Professional organizations seek to advance the interests and awareness of particular professions or fields of work, similar to consulting firms who strive to improve and support the work of their clients.
As organizations meet their objectives and enact their strategic plans, the change they seek to enact will begin to take place. For example, as a product is purchased and reviewed, consumer demand will grow and spur increased production. If a charitable organization is granted funding for their work, that work will need to reach its full scope, be more perfect, and be reported on to the funding institution. So often, this change is a milestone for organizations. Staff celebrate these milestones and view them as a prize for hard, exceptional work. But as this change occurs, executives must join in the celebration and brace themselves for even more internal changes. As your organization reaches its potential, your executive office and operations must evolve as well.
Much like the American nuclear family, the makeup and commonalities among executive offices have changed since the dawn of technology and as professional settings have become more educated and diverse. The Baby Boomer and Silent Generations experienced homogeneous, Rockwellian professional settings. When we think of a classic office setting, scenes from Mad Men or Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 come to mind. Those stories center around white people and feature misogyny as a plotline. They also showcase the antiquated systems, technologies, and processes of a bygone workplace. While modern organizations are striving to be more diverse, accessible, and of a level playing field, many of them are still stuck using outmoded processes and technology that are holding them back from achieving the growth and change they wish to see.
For example, the way your company’s finances are handled may need an upgrade. You would be surprised how many not-for-profits are using Microsoft Excel as accounting software. Or, perhaps your company has graduated from QuickBooks and needs an accounting system that is more powerful, or your CFO needs additional staff to complement increased operations. There are many ways to improve how your executive office manages finances, and a trusted advisor can provide the perspective and guidance you need to determine your game plan. Another example of what could be holding your executive office back is how your team communicates and manages internal relationships. Many teams stick to certain meeting formats simply because of precedent. Instead of department-wide meetings with agendas, casual stand-ups might allow for organic problem solving and ideation. Reporting structures can be reimagined to allow for more innovation and creativity, and your onboarding process could set the tone for your employees’ entire tenures.
Prime Chief of Staff is an executive advisory firm focused on improving effectiveness through building and supporting an organization’s executive office. When our clients first contact us for an initial conversation, they often tell us they have been meaning to reach out to us for weeks, and that they have been needing our services for even longer. The challenges our clients face are complex and nuanced, often involving delicate and long-standing professional relationships and organizational history. But the reason for the delay our clients have in contacting us is simple: their organization is experiencing desired change and their executive office and operations need to catch up and the path forward is unclear.
Some of Prime’s clients are startups whose work began using humble software and intimate, friendly reporting structures that they have outgrown. Other clients are family companies with decades of success behind them and business practices that made sense for a generation of leadership that is preparing for retirement. Regardless of an organization’s age or mission, the change necessary for an organization to scale and evolve is intricate. An executive office (or the EO) is comprised of professionals, technology, and processes that anchor an organization’s operations and effectiveness. The EO serves as the hub of a company, and often sets the standard for the company’s operations and culture. Because it is such an important foundation, the evolution of an executive office can be painstaking. Like all organizational change, evolution of the executive office can be slow to manifest and hard to plan for.
Prime Chief of Staff was founded in 2009 by Catherine Berardi, a former Chief of Staff herself, who wanted to increase understanding of the Chief of Staff role and what it can unlock for the executives and organizations they serve. At the time of its founding, Prime was focused largely on educating executives about the role of a chief of staff and how it can improve executive effectiveness and achievement. Once a hallmark of political offices, Chiefs of Staff are now commonplace in all sorts of organizations, and Prime is solving the overarching challenges that Chiefs of Staff and the entire executive office face. The blueprint of an executive office is as unique as its organization is, and the challenges an EO faces are just as distinctive. Prime Chief of Staff leads and advises organizations through a variety of circumstances:
- Performing the duties of a chief of staff or executive assistant while an employee is on leave
- Auditing processes, grading them on efficiency, effectiveness, ease of use, and scalability
- Introducing asynchronous communication technology to maximize employees’ time
- Sourcing and placing candidates for vacancies in the EO
- Defining priorities and scopes of role for family members within an executive office
- Assessing the effectiveness of technology used with an executive office
- Advising on succession plans for executive assistants, chiefs of staff, and members executive leadership
- Enacting coaching and continuous learning plans for the members of the EO who are ready to gain more skills or take on increased duties
- Distributing responsibilities among multiple professionals who support an executive, including executive assistants, personal assistants, and house managers
- Uncovering areas where technology can save time, ease burdens
- Auditing the time of each member of the executive office to uncover inefficiencies, opportunities for delegation, and misplaced priorities
- Building and revising reporting structures
- Facilitating updates to essential technologies while increasing staff understanding of its capabilities
- Preparing executive office members for due diligence phases of funding rounds, and facilitating due diligence in partnership with investing entities
The crux of the challenges executive offices face is how to scale and evolve while maintaining the desired, even cherished ethos and culture of the workplace. So often, Prime’s clients are admirably devoted to the employees who have been with them since the beginning. They are weary of new technology that isn’t their tried, true, and trusted. The processes put in place by previous, heralded employees are seen as the gold standard, regardless of the current age of those processes or the constraints present when they were created.
Prime values the parts of your executive office that have made you successful to this point. We prize your culture and company traditions as we guide you through which processes and structures of your organization might be hindering your growth and success. Prime’s advisory work can be conducted even as the work of your organization continues. Prime does not halt operations as they currently exist within your executive office, and we do not make hasty changes without intention and understanding. The challenges your executive office faces do not need to be dire or cause maximum frustration before we plan for improvement. In fact, during Prime’s signature effectiveness assessment, our firm can identify what is not yet but might become a challenge as your organization scales or your team of employees changes.
While many of our clients come to us with immediate stressors and challenges, some of our most lauded work has occurred as the result of proactive executives who want to facilitate prudent growth and best-in-class change management. Solving the big problems of organizations amid growth is what Prime Chief of Staff is thanked for. However, it is our ability to predict and identify the future challenges of organizations that make us trusted advisors in addition to savvy problem solvers.
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Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich