Kill All the Pets . . .

The following ideas are taken from my recent book, FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution, now available on (Sorry, not yet available on, but coming).

Fastbreak 2

Chapter 19: Kill All the Pets!

Winning teams have the least amount of distractions. They have a really tight group of people working towards the same common goal.  ~ Larry Dixon

Every time I conduct senior executive interviews prior to a strategy execution consultingexec overload engagement I hear complaints about initiative overload.  More often than not a bleary-eyed executive looks at me, shakes her head, and says something like: “I know you are trying to help, but the last thing I need right now is another initiative.  If you really want to help this company, reduce the number of projects!  There’s no way we can get all our current projects done, even with twice the staff.”

Sound familiar? Initiative Overload is a common problem in nearly every company.

overload1Somehow initiatives behave like rabbits, they seem to multiply and grow, all with good intentions on the part of their sponsors.  “We need this project to be funded if we are going to remain competitive.  My department can’t deliver on its objectives unless we invest in this new technology.”  The rationale is totally logical and it’s hard to say no; after all, the senior executive is fully supportive.

So how do otherwise rational and logical senior executive teams wind up in a situation of initiative overload?  Where do these added projects, and increased costs come from?  And why do otherwise powerful senior executives feel so frustrated and helpless in solving this problem?

The answer lies in the fact that most companies are silo-based in how they execute their strategy.  While the overall strategy has an enterprise-wide focus, implementation plans are usually developed by each department acting in isolation.  Each department or function develops the plans and initiatives they believe will best deliver the strategy, but from their functional, or silo, point of view.  In addition, a few “pet” projects are also added to the mix, mostly because a senior department head thinks it’s a good idea.  The result, initiative overload and cost inflation.

Whenever we have audited the number of active projects inside a company against the specific strategic objectives of the firm, more often than not we find a large number, close to 30%, which are not directly linked to the overall strategic objectives of the company.  Most CEO’s are shocked when this situation is brought to light.   “How did these things get funded?” is often the cry from the corner office. It also creates an uproar from the sponsors of those projects deemed “not connected”.

And here is where leadership and teamwork must come into play.  Those projects and initiatives that don’t connect to the overall strategic intent or help deliver the breakthrough objectives, need to be cut (unless of course you are one of the few companies with an unlimited budget and an endless supply of good people).

Here are the key questions the senior team must address, collectively, in order to reduce the number of initiatives:

  • Just how does this initiative directly connect to our strategic intent and our breakthrough objectives?
  • What would happen 3-5 years from now if this project was cut today?
  • Where could we better deploy the cash and human resources currently consumed by this project?

Let’s assume that 15% of all your organization’s projects and initiatives are not connected to your overall strategy.  Where could you better deploy 15% of your budget and people?

Initiative Overload is a problem worth solving.

FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Kill All the Pets . . .

  1. grace0012013 says:

    “Initiative Overload is a problem worth solving.” – Yes and Amen! And a good solution for this problem is outsourcing


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