Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Solve Any Problem By Adjusting Target, Team And Frequency

© AdobeStock
If a project isn't proceeding the way you hoped it would, try asking these three questions to get back on track.

As a leader, you are faced with challenges ranging from small to large, from simple to complex. When in coaching sessions with CEOs, I often hear about the challenges that aren’t going the way the CEO wants them to go and the problems that aren’t getting addressed and are negatively impacting growth or profitability or both.

I usually start with these questions to understand the current reality:

• What is the target and how clear and aligned is the team about it?

• Who is on the team that is addressing this challenge?

• What is the frequency they are meeting to discuss progress toward the solution?

I remember many challenges at Cambridge that needed adjustment to make progress. One such challenge not getting the progress we needed at Cambridge was a component quality issue. We were getting reports of what appeared to be inconsistent failures of a temperature control device inside of the systems. Our service teams were resolving quickly with a replacement item sent, but we couldn’t get a handle on the root cause. The quality team met weekly and made progress on the complex problem, but it wasn’t moving fast enough for the risk level. A single recall incident could tank an otherwise stellar year of growth and impact the brand for years. While we weren’t at that level yet, this problem could get there if not managed well, and I was starting to get concerned with our risk, as were others. Something had to change.

We started by asking the three questions:

• What is the target?

I asked the current team what is the target and listened for how clear it was. We learned that the target was not clear regarding this particular issue. The target for the service team was to address every service issue in the field quickly to ensure that clients were up and running and happy. The target for the quality team was to identify and address the top three quality issues. There was no clear target for this particular issue yet.

• Do we have the right team on it?

When I asked who is on the team addressing the issue, I found a solid cross-functional group of leaders involved at the director, manager, and front line level. We didn’t currently have any executive leadership on the team, typical for quality issues but not for potential recall level issues like this one had the potential to turn into.

• Are we meeting with the right frequency? 

The current team was meeting on a weekly basis about all quality issues and ad hoc on this particular issue. If we wanted to accelerate progress, we could adjust one or all of the three items found in discovery. After discussions with the executive team, we decided to adjust all three. 1. We clarified a target—to develop a full plan within two weeks to resolve the issue for past units sold and current production requirements to avoid a recall. 2. We adjusted the team by adding an executive to lead and including all involved internally. 3. We moved frequency from weekly to daily until we had a clear path forward.

With these changes, the team started to make significant progress and resolved the issue thoroughly and quickly. The resources flowed because the team had the right members, the target was clear, and the meeting Frequency created and maintained momentum. The plan was executed and we not only avoided a recall, but also improved client relationships by being proactive in addressing.

Like the above example, I often find a mismatch of the magnitude of the problem and the team/frequency aimed at the trial. If you are trying to launch a human-crewed mission to the moon within the next month and have a high school team meeting monthly to accomplish such, don’t be surprised when you don’t get off the ground.

Next time your business is stalled, ask three simple questions:

• How clear is the target?

• Do we have the right team on it?

• Are they meeting on the right frequency?

Adjust one or all three and see if you can get back on track.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.