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.
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.
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
+44-7833-493-999 uk mobile
Also on Amazon: FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution