A checklist for the most important requirements

Many companies are in the midst of an existential turnaround situation and, right at the beginning of the corona crisis, they launched the first measures and initiatives to stabilize their results and the company. Everything that will also influence the bottom line in the short and medium term is prioritized and becomes the focus of attention. The list is very diverse: saving costs, rethinking processes and making them more efficient, accelerating important new developments, taking advantage of new market opportunities, focusing on the products and services that generate sales, are among many other measures.

All these measures require a lot of attention and energy in their implementation and at the same time the original management work as well as the strategic orientation should not be neglected. So, what can be done to maximize the chances of success of the measures that have an impact on results while still leaving room for other management work?

The Rapid Results Approach provides some valuable hints here about the prerequisites needed to increase the chances of success for result-oriented initiatives without requiring the full attention of the leadership. We have put together a small checklist for you, which should allow you to check whether the most important prerequisites have been met.

Checklist for the most important requirements: Clear priorities, strong team, explicit result orientation, short-term time frame, rhythm and leadership access, learning and anchoring

Clear priorities from the management team

Are there clear and shared priorities in the management team? This should go without saying, but it pays off to check again and again in the management team whether the priorities are clear and whether everyone fully supports them. It is especially worthwhile to make sure that there are not too many priorities. If this is the case, you run the risk of spreading your resources too thin and thus not achieving the progress you want and need. The question of whether the priorities are communicated coherently and clearly to the organization also needs to be part of the consideration. Only if a project or initiative is seen as a contribution to one of the key priorities, the organization can get its full weight and support behind it and therefore increase its chances of success.

Small, powerful teams are in the lead

Have we transferred the responsibility for our most important initiatives and measures that have an impact on results to a small team? We are firmly convinced that the most effective unit in an organization is always a small, powerful team. For this reason, it is very important that the leadership team identifies and breaks down challenges from the priorities (not too broad and no predefined solutions) that can be passed on to a small team. The team is thus clearly assigned the responsibility and driving role. The team, as well as the leadership, must have no doubt who is in charge of the topic and who is in the lead. Unfortunately, in reality this is far too often unclear and vague.

Clear expectations of results

Have we clearly articulated what kind of results we expect from the team? In addition to a challenging assignment, it is very important that clear expectations for tangible outcomes are articulated towards the team. Far too often, projects are focused on activities that sound good but may or may not have an impact on the bottom line. There should be no doubt that at the end of the day the team must make a significant contribution to the company’s results. How high this contribution is and what exactly the team is focusing on within the challenge must have enough room for specification so that the team shape their goals and therefore fully stand behind it. Our experience: Teams very often set more ambitious goals than most managers would.

Short time horizon

Are the projects designed to achieve measurable short-term progress? The time horizon for these initiatives should be between 60 – 100 days, or sometimes even shorter. The team needs enough time to implement meaningful measures, but at the same time a time horizon that requires immediate action and does not allow for lengthy analyses and benchmark comparisons. On the one hand, in today’s environment it is important to move ahead step by step and adapt along the way. On the other hand, it would be fatal to wait too long for results. What if, at the end of the year, it turns out that the measures have not worked? With shorter periods of time, you keep your options open to iterate and, if necessary, to get other initiatives off the ground. In addition, rapid success can strengthen confidence in your own abilities and build up a certain momentum.

Leadership access and rhythm

Have we made sure that the responsible manager coordinates with the team in a suitable rhythm and also provides the necessary support? For these prioritized, results-oriented projects it is very important that the team has good and quick access to the responsible manager in case quick decisions must be made that are not within the team’s discretion. In addition, a certain check-in rhythm with the team gives the manager the ability to stay involved without getting into the way of progress. What the right rhythm is depends of course on the project and its duration, but normally a two-week check-in cycle has proven to be a good frequency. For the check-in it is important that these check-in sessions are very easy to prepare, and major PowerPoint battles are avoided. Ideally, the team simply uses their own work planning (e.g. on a Kanban board) to give an update. The typical topics: What have we done? What do we plan next? Where does the team need decisions or other support from the manager? In short, everything that slows down or hinders the team in the project implementation must be avoided.

Ensuring sustainability and learning

Does the team have sufficient focus on what they learn when implementing the measures? In the heat of the moment, it is also important to focus the team’s attention on what they learn during implementation. What will it take to anchor what has been achieved in the long term? Where are further possibilities to apply and scale the implemented measures? What do we learn about the organization, the customer or the strategy? What next steps should be considered? Where in the organization did the team run up against challenges during the implementation? Especially in the final phase of a 100-day project it is important to reflect on these and similar questions in order to adapt the course accordingly.

Any result-oriented initiative or project that can rely on the conditions described above can increase its chances for success and therefore its ability make meaningful contributions to the bottom line.