Friday, February 5, 2021

Link and buffer


"Link and Buffer" is a leadership concept for a leader positioned between a governing board, to whom they must link the project, and a project team which must be buffered from the whims and biases of the board.

Fair enough
But it's not that easy.
In the "link and buffer" space live various skills:
  • Vision and practicality: to the board, the project leader talks strategically about outcomes and risks; and about the strategic direction of the project. But, to the team, the leader talks practically about getting on with business. All the tactical moves are effectively smoothed and buffered into a strategic concept which the board can grasp

  • Tempers and angst: When there's trouble, tempers fly. Buffering is a way to decouple. The board's angst does not directly impinge on the project if properly decoupled by the project leader.

  • Personality translation: Few on the project team will know or understand intimately the personalities on the board. Taking the personality out of the direction and recasting instructions into a formula and format familiar to the project team is part and parcel of the buffering.

  • Culture translation: In a global setting, the board may be culturally removed or distant from the project team. Who can work in both cultures? That of the board, and that of the project team? This is not only a linkage task but a translation task to ensure sensitivities are not trampled.

Examples of "link and buffer" abound in military history. Perhaps the relationship between Admiral Ernest King and Admiral Chester Nimitz is most telling. King was in Washington during WW II and was Nimitz superior in the Navy chain of command. Nimitz was in command of the Pacific Ocean Area from his HQ in Hawaii.  
 
King was responsible for a two ocean Navy in a world war; Nimitz more limited. Nimitz was the link and buffer from the tactical fighting admirals at sea, and the strategic war leaders in Washington.  No small matter!




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