Andreas Liebrecht and Volker Rau explain why “strategy giants” often become “execution dwarfs” and how managers can handle this.
“Our goal for 2017 is to complete the 2016 goals, which we should have done in 2015, because we had already agreed to them in 2014 and planned them in 2013.”
Hand on heart: this sentence is likely to be familiar to anyone who is pursuing demanding corporate goals. But what is the reason for delays in implementation processes?
If a strategy is to be implemented, the company is transformed into a large cooperation arena. Planners, developers, project managers gather on the ranks and inside the arena the boss watches the new product or the service emerge. That would be nice!
In fact, managers and employees work way too often in their so-called silos, with too little crossfunctional-coordinating. Individual problems are kept hidden (always keep the face), and soon the whole progress stops. Deviations are only addressed when people cannot look away anymore, which is usually too late. The timing is messed up – and the market entry as well.
To put it straight: the strategy team has proven to be ineffective.
Just recall the construction of the Berlin airport.
Endless discussions in hours of meetings help companies no longer. Successful CEOs and senior managers carry out regular strategy pit stops. They personally facilitate a meeting of all relevant contributors. According to the motto:
“I want to talk about the deviations, less about current successes, instead about what is currently causing problems. We then discuss who can support the team.”
Such a pit stop is the opposite of another hour-long meeting with endless discussions on the “why” of getting stuck. A well-prepared and disciplined pit stop can be carried out quickly.
Guide to a successful pit stop
The first step is the preparation. Employees should ask themselves where the delays come from. Above all, how can I solve them myself? Who should be brought to the boat? Ideally, everyone has a visualization, a sketch, designed to better understand the problem situation. A piece of paper will do.
The meeting takes place in form of a stand up meeting in a meeting corner. Not to sit around a table will make most teams faster. Individual topics, their root cause analysis and initial approaches to solutions are named. If necessary: short, crisp brainstorming of the group. Then the question: “Who can help?”
Transparency is important.
Measures are provided with timing and responsibilities and are, for example, visualized on a flipchart. The managing director is personally responsible for such measures, which cannot be implemented by the team member on her or his own. The meeting should take a maximum of 20 minutes.
More in-depth exchanges of individual topics can then take place between the persons concerned afterwards.
The progress of the agreed measures should be visualized on a flipchart and should be at open display in the meeting area. Anyone who passes the meeting area so can recognize the progress of the solutions at a glance. After all, the participants want and need to know whether the projects are going on.
In particular, if agility, maneuverability and speed are required in the market, managers should allow themselves and their teams to attend regular strategy pit stop meetings. When planning meets reality, business gets really interesting. In the strategy business, it is all about keeping the ability to act.
Ability to act requires clarity. And clarity emerges best in a framework as introduced in this article. If the strategic pit stop is well-moderated by the managing director, then strategic success is even more likely. No worries, it will work out well.
I can see how it could be really useful for a business to make sure that they can have the fastest pit stops so that they can improve their time. Getting a timing stand from a professional so that they can time themselves and keep track of how fast they are could be really useful. It was interesting to learn about how they should each try to solve their individual problems when they prepare for the pit stops.
thanks so much for your feedback! I guess the Strategy Pit Stop is overall a great learning opportunity for teams of strategists and executors. A well invested time to learn from useful mistakes, to build up self-responsibility, to maintain accountability and to form a culture of interpersonal support during strategy processes. And yes, it’s very useful to have these Pit Stops moderated, facilitated by an experienced coach.