Execution: Making the Solution Last Past the Last Meeting

Posted on by Brandon Klein


Solutions in themselves are of little use unless correctly applied or implemented. Because of competing priorities, lack of sustained momentum, or sufficient sponsorship (and many other forces), there is often the threat that solutions won’t last past Act Day.

“Failure does not strike like a bolt from the blue; it develops gradually according to its own logic. As we watch individuals attempting to solve problems, we will see that complicated situations seem to elicit habits of thought that set failure in motion from the beginning. From that point, the continuing complexity of the task and the growing apprehension of failure encourage methods of decision making that make failure even more likely and then inevitable.” --Dietrich Dorner, The Logic of Failure


Solutions are most often successfully implemented or applied when certain key factors are present. These include:


· A clearly understood business imperative to apply the solution

· Committed sponsorship

· Available resources

· When the sponsors and those responsible for implementation are fully “bought into” the solution

The AWARENESS of these factors and indeed the awareness of the risk of implementation failure are in themselves key enablers to successful implementation. A team should not only be made aware of these risks but should also be charged with developing risk management strategies. In addition, the team should be periodically reminded (whether this be by themselves or by an external party) of the importance of business imperative for the successful implementation and of the risks and risk strategies that are still applicable.

One variation to the three-day DesignShop model is to add a fourth day, but only for the project team. They can spend the better part of a day sorting through how to take the work that was done in the session and make certain they have the plan to carry it forward.


From “Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy,” by : Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne:


“In all the diverse management contexts we have studied, we have asked people to identify the bedrock elements of fair process. And whether we were working with senior executives or shop floor employees, the same three mutually reinforcing principles consistently emerged: engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity.


“Engagement means involving individuals in the decisions that affect them by asking for their input and allowing them to refute the merits of one another's ideas and assumptions. Engagement communicates management's respect for individuals and their ideas. Encouraging refutation sharpens everyone's thinking and builds better collective wisdom. Engagement results in better decisions by management and greater commitment from all involved to executing those decisions.


“Explanation means that everyone involved and affected should understand why final decisions are made as they are. An explanation of the thinking that underlies decisions makes people confident that managers have considered their opinions and have made those decisions impartially in the overall interests of the company. An explanation allows employees to trust managers' intentions even if their own ideas have been rejected. It also serves as a powerful feedback loop that enhances learning.


“Expectation clarity requires that once a decision is made managers state clearly the new rules of the game. Although the expectations may be demanding, employees should know up front by what standards they will be judged and the penalties for failure. What are the new targets and milestones? Who is responsible for what? To achieve fair process, it matters less what the new rules and policies are and more that they are clearly understood. When people clearly understand what is expected of them, political jockeying and favoritism are minimized, and they can focus on the job at hand.


“Notice that fair process is not decision by consensus. Fair process does not set out to achieve harmony or to win people's support through compromises that accommodate every individual's opinions, needs, or interests. While fair process gives every idea a chance, it is the merit of the ideas -- and not consensus -- that drives the decision making.”