Collateral Benefits ?


The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.  ~Saint Francis

As a result of the recent conflict in the Middle East, we have all become familiar with the term, “collateral damage”, which of course in this context refers to the unintended damage caused by a roadside IED, guided missile or smart bomb as it slams into its intended target.  Often the collateral damage is greater than expected with civilian casualties and extensive damage to nearby properties.

Another example of “collateral damage” is the use of the class of drugs called statins to control cholesterol levels.  While daily use of a statin (Lipitor or other brands) is effective at reducing cholesterol levels in the blood stream, it comes with some “collateral damage” or “side effects”, such as diarrhoea, upset stomach, muscle and joint pain, and changes in some blood chemistry tests.

Collateral Benefits?

I was thinking the other day about what terminology we would use to describe the “opposite” of collateral damage.  “Collateral Benefits”?  My definition would be when we engage in an activity or do one thing that generates multiple value-add benefits beyond the initial intent.

Here’s a good example, regular physical exercise; an activity which definitely generates multiple value-add benefits.  The collateral benefits of regular physical exercise have been shown to be stronger heart muscles, weight loss, greater lung capacity and better blood oxygenation, improved stamina and posture, reduced risk of heart attack, greater joint flexibility, improved circulation, improved mental attitude and positive outlook, faster healing from cuts and bruises, a reduced risk of diabetes, and also reduced cholesterol levels.  A lot more collateral benefits than just treating each of the issues separately.

It’s the difference between treating health issues holistically, as with exercise and diet, or individually with drugs and medications, which often comes with collateral damage.

The more holistic the solution the greater the potential for collateral benefits.

So, let’s move to the world of business and organizational performance.

Like modern medical approaches, business improvement solutions are often piece meal in their approach, with improvement actions focused on specific business problems.  For example, slow IT processing or frequent systems down-time is often dealt with by purchasing and installing a new computer system, with larger memory, more storage capacity and faster processors.  The new system definitely will solve the IT speed problems, but some of the collateral damage can be user resistance, incompatible databases, cost overruns, the need for extensive tailoring, increased training costs, and a host of other unintended issues.

Strategy Execution:

An area of business that is definitely in need of a holistic, collateral benefit approach is strategy execution.  This is definitely the CEO’s lament.

Right now there are a plethora of piece-meal approaches to trying to overcome the fact that most strategies fail to get implemented, not because the strategy is defective, but because of poor execution.  Some of these solutions include: improved spreadsheets and more data, additional performance metrics, strategy mapping, balanced scorecards, greater employee engagement, team building workshops, culture change, updating corporate value statements, focusing on the customer, and a host of other “solutions”.  All of which are supplied by a plethora of consultants and outside experts.  Even with the adoption on several of these fixes, the problem of poor strategy execution often remains.

What if there was a holistic, integrated approach that not only greatly improves the probability of successful implementation, but also has multiple collateral benefits? Some of the collateral benefits I would like to see are:

  • Improved senior team alignment and the leadership of change
  • Increased transparency and speed of decision-making and problem solving
  • Strategic goals and measures (metrics) available and clear to all employees
  • Focused accountability on who is responsible for what at all levels
  • Clear line-of-sight from the overall strategy to the monthly metrics.
  • Engage all employees (hearts & minds) in strategy delivery
  • Take strategy out of the executive suite and into the workplace
  • In a real and meaningful way, link employee goals to corporate goals
  • On-going governance. Provide for regular review of corporate goals and current performance at all levels
  • Ability to rapidly change parts of the strategy when the business environment changes
  • Encourage real-time input from employees with ideas, innovations, observations, suggestions, etc. that can improve the plan and results.

Imagine a Strategy Implementation business process that could deliver all that?  I can !

If you are curious and interested in a different (collateral benefits) approach to strategy execution, take a look at FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution.  This book not only explains the Non-Obvious barriers to strategy execution, but also presents a framework for developing and implementing a strategy execution roadmap, built by your management team and employees, not outside consultants.

You might find added benefits that translate into a more effective business!


John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

+44-208-741-6390  office
+44-7833-493-999  uk mobile

Read John’s blog
Business Books Website

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture
View   The Economist review of LEVERAGE

Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

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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