Developing and implementing a breakthrough strategy

Do you really need one of the big-name, expensive consulting companies to help you develop and implement a breakthrough strategy? I don’t think so. Our experience suggests that with the right leadership and with the right process, a company can accomplish repeated cycles of business acceleration and breakthrough results. And you can achieve these breakthrough results utilizing the ideas and efforts of the people who know your customers and business best…your own team.

So what does that “right process” for achieving breakthrough look like? Well, here is a high level description of the steps in such a process:

– Pull together a team of cross-functional senior leaders to serve as the core team that will own the initial breakthrough initiative with each member holding themselves personally accountable for the achievement of the desired results. The core team should also include a few “out of the box” thinkers and personnel who work directly with your customers.

– As a team, recognize and honor the past accomplishments of the organization and how the company got to where it is today. But then “let it go.” Also,implement B ensure that everyone on the team shares a common understanding of the current state the business – outlook based on current plans and actions, challenges, issues, etc. It’s also important to understand the current level of employee engagement in the organization. In particular, to what extent do personnel feel they are being given the chance to contribute to the company’s success and are being recognized for their efforts? Now it’s time for the team to turn its attention to the future and its many possibilities.

– The team should then develop a “declaration” of a future state for the company and organization that everyone on the team is willing to personally commit to achieving. It should describe a company that every one feels they will be excited and proud to be working in and one they will be highly motivated to bring into being. That desired future state should represent a true “breakthrough” for the company…one with business results beyond what the group has considered possible based recent performance and historical best performance.

implem A– In order to measure progress in moving toward declared future state, the team should next develop and align on a quantified “breakthrough goal. The metric for this goal should be one that can be measured on an ongoing basis without significant effort, for instance, year-on-year sales growth or gross profit. The specific goal (the number that goes with the metric) should represent a performance level well beyond what has previously been achieved but a level that is clearly not impossible (“pie in the sky”.)

– A characteristic of true breakthrough goal is that initially you have no idea how it will be accomplished. Ensuring the true alignment to a breakthrough goal of the entire team is the most critical and typically the most difficult part of the process. This is done with a “facilitated conversation” led by someone who has been specifically trained in conducting it.

– Having declared the future state that everyone wants to be in (“the what”) and aligned on a breakthrough goal in order to know when you get there, it’s time to “work back” from that future state step-by-step and identify the actions that will bring that future state into existence (“the how”.) In order to develop that action plan to achieve the breakthrough goal, you will tap into the “gold mine” of ideas from everyone on the team. With properly facilitated, rapid-fire brainstorming focused on achieving the breakthrough goal, 300-400 ideas for action can typically be generated by a group of 25-30 team members. After a read-through of all the ideas to ensure full awareness and understanding of the team, the ideas are quickly grouped into 10-20 themes or idea territories.

– Using an anonymous voting approach, the team should then quickly prioritize the idea categories against appropriate criteria. One of the criteria should always be “impact on the breakthrough goal” i.e. the greater the impact on the breakthrough goal, the higher that category of ideas should be scored. The idea categories can then be ranked from highest scoring to lowest scoring. The team can then decide how many of the highest scoring categories of ideas to move forward on taking into consideration the capacity of the organization and the resources available. Typically, the top 3 -4 idea categories are chosen to proceed to the next stage of the process.

– At this point, leaders and initial project team members are assigned to each of the chosen idea categories. Typically, the people who volunteer or implement Care assigned to these “greenhouse” projects are from the breakthrough core team. Other members on each project team can be added as needed. These teams will be responsible for reviewing the ideas that were submitted in their respective categories, develop a project charter, and assess the potential of the proposed project on the breakthrough goal. Assuming the project is “approved” by the steering committee for the breakthrough initiative, the team proceeds with implementation with the full support of the breakthrough initiative leader and steering committee. It is critical that the leaders and team members accept personal accountability for development and implementation of these projects.

With the right planning and process facilitation, all of the above steps can be effectively completed in a two day workshop. It is also critical that the breakthrough initiative leader and core team be competent in a particular set of skills that are critical to breakthrough leadership and working together on accomplishing breakthrough. Some examples are “Generous Listening, Leveraging Context and The Conversation for True Alignment.” With the right support, resourcing and phasing of the breakthrough projects, initial impact on the breakthrough goal is typically seen within 100 days of project start.

Source:, March 2015
By: Sam Monaco

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