Relocation: An Executive Team Effort
A new location means new opportunities, so it's vital for the CEO and other executives to actively participate in a relocation plan.
Mike Forsyth and Dutch Holland,  Holland & Davis LLC  (Apr/May 07)

 Although CEO responsibilities are pivotal to a company's daily operations, they do not necessarily include being an integral part of business relocation. In fact, the idea that they should even be peripherally involved does not occur at all within some companies. Yet, when upper management recognizes the importance of relocation as "moving the business and not just the furniture," a new perspective often emerges atop the company organizational chart: Since the move will disrupt the entire company anyway, it's foolish not to execute a value-added relocation.

A positive reaction reverberates when the executive hierarchy sees corporate relocation as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move and improve business performance. That new thinking breaks from the typical relocation expectations - broken work processes, broken lines of communication, and broken performers, along with office furnishings. Of course, turning negatives into positives does not come easily and requires both sure-footed planning and tight coordination.

One of the biggest opportunities that corporate relocation provides is allowing businesses to get things accomplished during a move that are actually more difficult when not moving anywhere. However, a different kind of executive involvement is required during a relocation than during normal business. On an everyday basis, executives "manage by exception," delegating as often as possible. In contrast, to improve business performance, all exceptions must be managed strictly at the top of the food chain, with executives quickly escalating issues rather than delegating them. Upper management must be on top of its game 24/7.

If these introductory observations seem to indicate that more than a little hands-on executive involvement is called for, that's correct. Corporate officers at the center of this extreme makeover are the chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), chief sales officer (CSO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief information officer (CIO), and chief human resources officer (CHRO).

The Hands-On CEO
The CEO should have multiple relocation responsibilities. The most important one is being an enthusiastic advocate of both physically relocating the company and improving its performance by making the move. Not only does the CEO recognize that performance is vital, he or she is willing to take the company through the entire "relocate and improve" maneuver.

The CEO is also the "chief strategy officer," who makes sure the competitive direction is clear from the outset, focusing on the idea that relocation and performance are not "apples and oranges" but must work in tandem to further the company's long-term interests. Of utmost importance for getting things done and resolving conflicts is a "24-hour rule," which states that the relocation project manager should have 15 minutes minimum with the CEO every 24 hours throughout the project's entire duration. Additionally, the CEO works with the COO in targeting processes for improving company-wide performance, and makes the final decision on which processes are to be improved, which lines of communication will be repaired, and which corrective personnel changes will be made when the company relocates.

Meanwhile, further underscoring that his or her duties are more than just talking a good game, the CEO establishes business goals with the COO for the relocation/improvement. And figuratively taking a seat on the other side of the board table, he or she is the chief customer advocate in helping turn improvements into genuine value-adds for the customer. The CEO also is the chief communicator to multiple audiences - the firm, the board, and investors - about performance improvement, targeted business goals, and benchmarks of change expected as a result of the relocation.

All these significant duties and more apply simply because the CEO is at the apex of corporate power. As such, the CEO should be a major provider of resources and remover of internal obstacles, continually keeping the project and "ultimate time clock" on track with associated business objectives.

Other Executives' Roles
• The COO owns the project's specific business goals and, as "chief targeting officer," helps target the right and best processes for improvement. Likewise, he or she is closely involved in designing and approving new processes emerging from improvements. To borrow construction terminology, the COO is the design-build contractor. He or she is also the master program manager, taking all necessary mechanical changes for improvement to an on-target, on-time, and on-budget conclusion. That requires working daily with the relocation project manager to best understand, identify, and schedule all mechanical changes for improvements. It's particularly worth noting that more than 50 percent of the COO's time will be absorbed by the relocation, from initiation through completion.

• The CSO works with the COO both for relocation and for targeting processes for relocation and performance improvement. Additionally, he or she makes sure a customer scorecard is kept in maintaining the improvement of customer value as a key objective; and the CSO is directly responsible for key customer interaction, market impact, and preventing customer loss. He or she must also keep the CEO and executive team in sync with the marketplace during and after project completion, and similarly communicate to customers how all this improvement helps them and not just the company.

• The CFO is virtually a CEO's financial appendage. He or she works closely with the CEO to put the need/gain of improvements into perspective, and leads the way in getting business metrics in place to measure progress and success toward goals. Also, the CFO assists the CEO with resourcing to get the improvement initiative approved, and helps to motivate employees with monetary incentives for improvement success.

• The CIO has evolved into an increasingly important team player in the IT-driven business world. As "chief systems architect," he or she helps ensure that information systems make a seamless transition to the new location. Jointly with the relocation project manager, the CIO also helps ensure that needed technology resources are available to successfully identify and redesign new work processes. The CIO also helps make sure that metrics and scorecards for measuring results are in place, and he or she both identifies and implements risk mitigation processes to keep IT services at an appropriate standard during the transition and opening of new facilities.

• The CHRO's main executive interrelationship is with the COO. These two corporate officers align employee performance management systems for a dual focus, one toward improved work processes and the other toward changes in incentive compensation for supporting improved processes. Also, the CHRO helps to make certain that "people impacts" are identified and worked through. Similarly, he or she leads the way in identifying worker competencies needed for the project and, as necessary, provides relevant training, documentation, and knowledge transfer. In addition, the CHRO deals with change-resistant workers, of which there are usually some in any corporate relocation. That may mean supporting either a transfer or termination, and may add the responsibility of recruiting sufficiently-skilled replacements at the right time or right wage to maintain consistent customer service.

Getting and Staying Involved
Corporate relocation is not just a relocation project manager's job, but rather one for the entire executive-level team. Since the decision has been made to physically relocate the business, upper management might as well improve daily organizational performance at the same time. And that takes full executive involvement.

Corporate relocation is an ideal time for active, aggressive leadership that moves the entire organization forward, not an optional exercise in which executives engage when they have spare time. When commitment is solidly in place and the executive team gets with the program, results can be extraordinary.

Mike Forsyth is a managing director and Dutch Holland, Ph.D., is CEO of Houston-based Holland & Davis LLC, a management consulting/business relocation firm with more than three decades experience. For more information or to contact Mr. Forsyth or Dr. Holland, visit the company's website at