Blank Checks: Unleashing the Potential of People and Businesses
How an unusual management technique inspires business teams to envision — and achieve — breakthrough results.
by Sanjay Khosla and Mohanbir Sawhney
This is a fascinating approach to enable innovation and growth. We continually find that one of the major barriers to success for a project is the inability of the business to resource it to win. Here is an approach that does that. I strongly suggest reading the article!!!
The secret of (many Kraft businesses) turnaround was to free the team from resource constraints that could limit their imagination, inspiring them to achieve unprecedented results that would create a virtuous cycle of growth. This, of course, ran counter to one of the gospel truths in management that people need to live within their means. Managers have always been taught that they have to work with the limited resources available. Unfortunately, resource constraints limit more than plans. They also limit the creative potential of people.
What if resources were not a constraint? If managers were free to dream and act big without worrying about busting their budgets, they would be limited not by resources, but by their imagination. We believe that business leaders can unleash tremendous untapped potential by unshackling their people and their businesses from resource constraints (while still, of course, holding them accountable for results). The key insight is that business leaders, instead of defining budgets and resources, should focus on defining ambitious goals, while leaving it to their managers and their teams to ask for whatever resources they need to achieve these goals. When teams decide their own budgets, they act as owners and are inspired to achieve the impossible. At Kraft Foods (where coauthor Sanjay Khosla is president of the developing markets group), we call this idea a “blank check” initiative....
How Blank Checks Work
1. Picking the best bets. The first step in a blank check initiative is for the business leaders to choose the business domains that should be targeted for growth.
2. Selecting the team. Blank checks are ultimately bets on people, rooted in the faith that they have the potential, the passion, and the perseverance to transform their businesses. 3. Defining goals and plans. Once the business leaders have selected a business domain and chosen the team leaders who will receive a blank check, they need to define the targets they expect the teams to achieve. 4. Kicking off the initiative. Once the business plan has been agreed upon, business leaders need to formally “issue the check” by approving the amount the team has asked for and transferring it into an account that can be accessed by the team leaders.
5. Monitoring results. As the blank check initiative begins, it is important to set milestones for key deliverables, and then to monitor them closely as the initiative proceeds