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Determining “What is most important?” is critical early in any effort. Working with imperfect and incomplete information is a basic tenant of business management. We have developed an objective “root cause” approach to assess enterprise performance against a prioritized short-list of 89 critical dimensions of enterprise health. The approach can be conducted in a very short period of time, reaching a much broader representative base than traditional, qualitative interviewing methods, while adding a self-assessment and gap identification to initial issue identification and prioritization.

Business elements- Our base model consists of fourteen (14) elements, each containing a number of sub-elements defined by a range of four observable statements of business practice (“best practice” to “no practice”);narrative comments can be also be collected.

Business Elements (number of sub-elements)

  • Direction and management (8)
  • Community / Talent / People (10)
  • Strategy / Vision (3)
  • Goals and Objectives (4)
  • Process (6)
  • Systems / Tools / Technology (4)
  • Data / Information (4)
  • Organization (4)
  • Communication (9)
  • Culture / Core Value (5)
  • Environment (3)
  • Measures (4)
  • Investment Profile / Asset Management (8)
  • Relationships (17)

Technology- Utilizing a browser-based polling/survey technology, managers, employees and other stakeholders record their observations of enterprise behaviors with a user-defined subset of the 14 business elements they identify as substantial barriers to business performance. This multi-level assessment tool can very rapidly provide a picture for management from different perspectives, including any misalignment between positional and/or functional groups.

Company- and industry-specific language can be added to tailor the instrument, and clarity can be validated by first conducting the assessment with a smaller sample (e.g. management team). Individual anonymity is assured, but all responses are tagged with identifiable position/functional groupings.

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Executive Alignment

by tom.reeder

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Executive teams must provide both the vision for change and “active management” throughout execution. Each leader must constantly work through political and emotional barriers to arrive at a rational consensus, and speak to the organization with a single voice. We support senior leadership teams with decision frameworks, problem solving tools, individual coaching, and a flow of “fact based” and validated data to facilitate timely decision-making and to mitigate risk.

But there must be more. With the explosion of information and the accelerated pace of change in the business environment, decisions must be pushed down in the organization. Instead of 5-10 strategic thinkers, there needs to be 100. Instead of 50-80 key decision makers, there needs to be 1000. The executive team must develop new management routines to enable them to remain current on business activities and to assess and manage business risks across the spectrum of strategic and tactical initiatives executed by their delegates.

Execution roadmap – With a shared focus on business outcome, all initiatives are integrated into a single, visual, and dynamic plan that identifies resource and input constraints along a common timeline. Key milestones are visible and published throughout the organization, and decision points and contingencies are identified. Common and shared support activities are consolidated and managed as an integrated effort.

Decision map – Management decisions are incorporated as part of the critical path schedule, participating decision makers are identified, and their individual data requirements to make corresponding decisions are defined. This decision support information is collected and presented as part of initiative management and is integrated into standard management routines.

Management infrastructure – Work product related to all roadmap activities and performance data identified as part of the decision map are made available to stakeholders on a common platform. Decision makers can review progress, completed work, and support data on a real time basis; they may proactively conduct targeted reviews, or be automatically alerted when new information is available or when milestones have been reached.

Clear executive sponsorship and commitment to results coupled with the management team’s commitment resources and eliminating barriers are the differentiating factors to a successful effort and achieving targeted business outcomes.

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Photo image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
In our previous supply chain strategy work, we have used a constellation metaphor for the end-to-end supply chain, with each supply chain node (star in the constellation) providing value to the supply chain.  The supply chain (constellation) should be designed to easily flex to alternate combinations of value, should one branch, or value node, of the supply chain be disrupted.


“Nearly 75% of companies report supply chain disruptions in some capacity due to Coronovirus”


From Bain’s Management Tools Survey “Supply Chain Management synchronizes the efforts of all parties— suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, customers, and so on— involved in meeting a customer’s needs.”2

The direct supply chain implications and knock-on effects3 of COVID-19 lock-down are as unknown today as the characteristics of the disease itself.4  The implications of blind adherence to minimization of waste of excess inventory (e.g., one of 8 muda’s, or types of waste5), a goal of Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing, may be at least partially to blame for the lack of Personal Protection Equipment inventory by hospitals in particular and the healthcare system in general.6

The following are a number of topic areas for supply chain and operational consideration as you define your next-normal strategy, vision and roadmap.



  • Consider the implications of trends and scenarios (e.g., health, geographic, political, technology, innovation, disruption, competitor demands, other industry sectors for competing for value of supplier node, etc.)
  • Consider the constellation, value nodes, sub-tier suppliers, supplier muscle and resilience of your supply chain; For example, Toyota does not know its suppliers below tier 2, and there are many tier 4 suppliers7
  • Consider “Just in Time + Just in Case8 (safety stock) inventory”



  • Review asset strategy including geographic footprint and concentration risks
  • Transform for agility (e.g., modularity & workforce upscaling)
  • Build robust supply chain function



  • End-to-end digitization (e.g., customer experience, workforce productivity, flexibility)
  • Transparency (e.g., spend, cost structure, strategic initiatives mapping)
  • Future of work (e.g., digital comms and collaboration)
  • Durable operations competitive advantage



  • Clarify and communicate leader’s intent
  • Push decision making downstream to increase speed of decision making and prevalence of feedback loops (e.g., Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA))
  • Segment, lead and manage your supply chain
  • Define trigger events


Screen shot of HBS Program 4: Supply Chain11 
Key takeaway: For lack of thousands of dollars of chemical inventory, Ford lost nearly $ 400MM in profit

While Supply Chain is a function and discipline into itself, leaders must understand enough about the immediate and next-normal supply chain implications for organizational muscle and operational resilience required to thrive across the range of multiple time-horizons, future and next-normal scenarios.

Key Thought:  General Eisenhower is often quoted “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”12  Scenario planning for pressure-testing strategy is like that— you may not need it, but when the worst hits, you know you are ready.


This article is part of our COVID series— “Getting to Your Next-Normal”

Also see



  1. Spiske, “75% of companies see supply chain disruptions due to Coronavirus,” Supply and Demand Executive, April 14, 2020
  2. See “Supply Chain Management,” Bain & Company Management Tools,
  3. For example and implication, see Haag, “New Threat to New York City: Commercial Rent Payments Plummet,” New York Times, May 21, 2020,, sub-headline: “One landlord reported that 80 percent of retail tenants missed rent at the start of the month. The drop in commercial rent payments could imperil property tax collections that pay for city services”
  4. For example, MIS-C in children. See Wachtell “My Son Survived Terrifying Covid-19 Complications”, New York Times, May 21, 2020, for a personal perspective of emerging COVID disease presentation and implications in children and young adults.
  5. See “Toyota Production System,” Wikipedia,
  6. See Professor Raman’s (Harvard Business School) comments citing several cases where carrying too little inventory, at a minor cost, had significant impact on business performance, including reference to COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment. During the program, Professor Raman mentioned, while being a proponent of Toyota Production System, Lean had been misunderstood by blindly following minimal inventory management with little understanding of resilience of multiple tier suppliers and value of safety stock. From, Reeder, “MY NOTES to Harvard Business School’s Crisis Management for Leaders (4 of 5) SUPPLY CHAIN,“
  7. See Reeder, “MY NOTES to Harvard Business School’s Crisis Management for Leaders (4 of 5) SUPPLY CHAIN,“ LinkedIn Article,
  8. Sneader, et al, “From thinking about the next normal to making it work: What to stop, start, and accelerate,” McKinsey, May 15, 2020 McKinsey puts forward 7 recommendation areas including, for example, No. 2 “From lines and silos to networks and teamwork” and No. 3 “From just-in-tune to just-in-time and just-in-case”
  9. Barriball, et al, “Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations,” McKinsey, May 2020,
  10. Barriball, et al, “Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations,” McKinsey, May 2020,
  11. “Crisis Management for Leaders” (5 program series), Harvard Business School Webinars (3.24 to 4.9.2020), presented to more than 1,000 alumni in each evening session at 5:30 pm ET via Zoom
  12. “Dwight D. Eisenhower” Quote of “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything” From a speech to the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington, D.C. (November 14, 1957) ; in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957, National Archives and Records Service, Government Printing Office, p. 818
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