Solutions to Your Business Challenges

The 100-Day Challenge

The 100-Day Challenge

Close your eyes and think through one of the stickiest challenges your organization continues to work through – a challenge that despite the brainpower, energy, and resources put into it, continues to falter. Now, think about your hopes for breaking through this organizational conundrum – what would you like to accomplish? What if all the barriers were removed? What if failure was not an option? How much could you achieve? (Focus on a tangible indicator here – financial gain, reduction in cost, acceleration in product launch cycle, improvement in reading scores – essentially, a number or a percentage relative to a baseline metric to initiate your thinking). Now, push your thinking, how far can you stretch that number? How much can you enhance the impact?

Welcome to Schaffer territory. It might feel a little fuzzy and uncomfortable at first. This is normal. But over the next 100 days, take solace in the fact that this approach works – just give it time, buckle up, and brace yourself for an extremely powerful ride. To continue down this path, follow the steps outlined below.

  1. Review and regularly reference the Resources for the 100-Day Challenge to learn about the Rapid Results approach and to shape your thinking throughout this challenge.
  2. Refine the challenge you would like to work on: What area will you focus on? What progress do you want to make?  What would success look like? What might a 100-day Rapid Results goal related to this challenge look like? Who might be assigned to work on this? (Keep this to 8-10 people.)
  3. Send an email to: – or call +1-203-322-1604 – to get advice on how to do this. We will assign a mentor to work with you.
  4. Talk with your colleagues about who needs to participate in this effort. Convene a team to set a 100-day goal – and develop a 100-day plan to achieve it. Remember that the goal needs to be about results that matter – measured in terms of savings or revenues with margins, rather than a report, analysis, or recommendation. The choreography of setting the goal is critical. This cannot be a “business as usual” goal. It has to exceed all expectations – yours included! Your Schaffer mentor can help you with this choreography.
  5. After the launch, talk with your Schaffer mentor about how to help the team persist in spite of the difficulties they will inevitably encounter.
  6. Share your goal, experience, and results (in the comments section below) with Schaffer consultants and other colleagues to push your thinking, get more information, and collaborate along the way.
  7. Check back often for ideas and to discuss your results and learnings – and be sure to share your outcomes with us. We will highlight some results in future editions of our newsletter, Schaffer Insights.

It is simple. But it is not easy. And if done right, we promise that the journey will be rewarding for you, your team, and your organization.

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  1. Jen Drammer
    Jen Drammer on 09/28/2012 3:16 p.m.

    This concept may be applicable to something I'm working on. A little background: I work for a liquor distributor that works mostly with bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Business is good, but it's been flat for the past year. The economy may have something to do with it, but whatever we were doing before isn't working anymore. Or maybe we've just reached a ceiling in our market? I'd like to apply this 100 day challenge approach to bringing in at least 10 new accounts by the end of the year. Does that work? Also, I only have 5 people on my team. Is that enough to do this right? Thanks!

  2. Jonathan Stearn
    Jonathan Stearn on 09/30/2012 10:07 p.m.

    @Jen: Your goal sounds spot on. It sounds really interesting and a great chance to learn about the market. Nice job! Five people is a touch small for a typical team, but there is no reason why it couldn't be sufficient. The key thing is to make sure all relevant constituencies are represented. Your assigned Schaffer mentor can certainly help. Good luck!

  3. Maggie Thompson
    Maggie Thompson on 12/07/2012 6:16 p.m.

    I work in the strategy unit of large Fortune 100 company. The company does not have a hard time getting behind strategies but the challenge is execution! It seems we collectively get excited, align goals and resources and then wait . . . We seem to not know how to get it done. If I have it right, its worthwhile getting a small group of key players to run a pilot with a tangible goal. Something like, "Increase market share of X product by 20% in North American Markets." Do I have it right?

  4. Jonathan Stearn
    Jonathan Stearn on 12/10/2012 9:03 a.m.

    @ Maggie: You're describing a very common challenge to strategy implementation. There are any number of reasons why this happens. Pursuing a business goal aligned to the strategy will help the team uncover, confront, and overcome these issues quickly - and lead to insights that will help you accelerate movement on the other strategic imperatives. Your initial goal statement is a great start. The only suggestion I would make is to add a timeframe - a deadline by which the result will be achieved. And it must be short. Can market share be increased by 20% in less than 100 days? If that is not feasible, perhaps focus on growing share for one line of products in less than 100 days. Or all products, but in one region of North America. Your Schaffer mentor will help you. Good luck!

  5. Maggie Thompson
    Maggie Thompson on 12/16/2012 5:30 p.m.

    Yes, that makes sense. Having a time frame makes sense - can't forget something as important as that . . . but how do you help your clients to focus their efforts. At least in my organization, each region is unique - it would be hard to decide which region in North America we should focus on first.

  6. Jonathan Stearn
    Jonathan Stearn on 12/17/2012 9:17 p.m.

    It's a great question, Maggie, and one that deserves a conversation rather than a few short comments on a web page! But the short answer is, go where there is some readiness to do something different. Is there a regional head who has voiced impatience - even frustration - with the status quo? Who believes that much better performance is possible, even though her people are probably working at capacity? Who is comfortable empowering her people to experiment with new ways of working? Who enjoys questioning conventional wisdom and trying different things? A leader who demonstrates at least some of these characteristics will appreciate the kind of project you are contemplating. Often the instinct is to start where there is the most need (i.e., where things are the worst). In my experience that is often a mistake. The characteristics of the leader (especially in early projects) are much more important to success. Hope that helps!

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