7 out of 10 CEO’s believe in miracles

Sounds a bit absurd? Managers are, after all, rational beings – hard working people, driven by goals and high ambitions. Managers make plans and deliver, don’t they? There’s no way these managers can really believe in miracles – right? It is our contention that the opposite is true. Many managers simply turn a blind eye to the obvious and hope for the best.

Picture this scenario. You are a part of a management team and you have just completed this year’s business plan. You’ve put in a lot of work for a long time, and are quite pleased with the result. Now it’s time to present your business plan to the rest of the company. The CEO and perhaps some others in the management team will then make a two-hour presentation of the strategy to all the co-workers in the company auditorium, or via your video system.

The presentation is well-prepared and fine-tuned, the management team is charged and focused, and the presentation is delivered with power, energy and enthusiasm. It is designed to inspire optimism and energy in the co-workers. Afterwards, the management team is tired but satisfied. They feel like they’ve done what’s expected of them, now it’s up to the organisation to deliver! Maybe something like what you can see in the slide below…


The question is, what is the real effect of this yearly event? Over several decades we have found it interesting to ask co-workers, middle- and first-line managers about the results on the shop and office floors of these kind of events. The short version? Well, people leave after two hours, wondering what on earth the core message was?! There were a lot of slides, a lot of numbers and goals, but what does that mean to me? In what way will this influence my day at work? So, what happens on the office and workshop floor? Will this make the strategy become real? Our observation is that a number of things will actually happen, especially those where management have a hand in it. But – when it comes to the issues in which management really need everybody’s commitment and contributions, we find only marginal effects.

Why is that? Didn’t management do everything one could expect of them? Could it be that we have lazy, disinterested and not so talented people in the company?

No. The true answer is that management missed several links in the chain of concretisation, which has to be intact for the business plan to result in action on all frontiers in the company.

Firstly – the message must reach everybody. The format of a business plan is designed for management teams, boards and owners. It uses an expert language, familiar only in these circles, where it is used every day. In order to reach everybody, an exciting story about the future is needed, a story everybody can understand. Clear goals that everybody can understand and relate to in their everyday work.

Secondly – the goals have to matter to me as a co-worker. If the goals and the strategic challenges facing the company do not reach deep within me – if they don’t wake up my own personal energy and my will to do something about it – then the obvious conclusion is that the management presentation has not made much difference.

Thirdly – co-workers have to be given a chance to discuss, in an organised and methodical way, what all this means to the local operations. They have to be given time and space to ask the question: how can I contribute locally? Use their own intelligence and local expertise and find out what needs to be done to make the strategy real. Set up goals and action plans to take the strategy forward, step by step, until the goals are reached.

Does that sound like “rocket science”? Surely not. But, how many companies and management teams take on this issue in a serious and professional way? If you are not sure, we suggest you conduct some interviews with friends who work in companies …

Finally, a few concrete tips if you’re not satisfied with just hoping for miracles:

  • Put the same amount of time and resources into getting co-workers to understand and commit to the strategy, as you put into creating it.
  • Try to find a story about the future that people can take on board and make their own.
  • Make sure goals and challenges touch people, wake up their energy and their desire to do something about it.
  • Set aside time for all co-workers and trust them to identify and implement their own best contribution to the strategy.

By: Lasse Ramquist and Mats Eriksson