Advertising agencies are constantly in pursuit of greater productivity and increased morale. Two wildly different studies provide insights on how to achieve the results everyone is chasing. This first study is research into egg production. The second reveals which factors matter the most when executing a strategy. Both provide valuable lessons that can be applied at your agency.
Chicken Fight: All-Stars versus Average Joes
William Muir, an evolutionary biologist at Purdue University, conducted a study to understand the productivity in flocks of chickens. Muir compared the egg laying productivity between two flocks. The first flock was an average flock that was left alone to breed and interact naturally. The second flock was an all-star flock that consisted of the individually most productive chickens. Only the highest producing chickens of each generation were bred in the second flock.
After six generations, the production of the chickens was evaluated. The measure of productivity in simply the number of eggs being produced. Which do you think produced more eggs, the average flock or the all-star flock?
Surprisingly, after six generations the average flock was outproducing the carefully managed all-star flock. Furthermore, the average flock was healthy and happy. Meanwhile, the all-star flock was down to only three chickens. The rest had been pecked to death.
While humans won’t peck each other to death, at least not in a literal sense, there are similar social constructs.
The lesson is a group’s ability to work together is more important to overall productivity than having a group of highly productive individuals.
Chickens seem to have egg production pretty well figured out, but how can this insight be transferred to the advertising world? Let’s take a look at a more traditional business study to find out.
In a study published by Gary L. Neilson, Karla L. Martin, and Elizabeth Powers in Harvard Business Review, Booz & Company took a five-year look at strategy execution in over a thousand companies. What they found was that most organizations aren’t very good at executing on their own strategy.
Employees at three out of every five companies rated their organization weak at execution—that is, when asked if they agreed with the statement “Important strategic and operational decisions are quickly translated into action,” the majority answered no.
To get the answer to why companies fail at execution the group worked with more than 250 companies to help them execute more effectively. They observed many companies putting an emphasis in the wrong areas when trying to increase effectiveness. Often times these actions led to temporary fixes that didn’t address the fundamental problem hampering execution.
When a company fails to execute its strategy, the first thing managers often think to do is restructure. But our research shows that the fundamentals of good execution start with clarifying decision rights and making sure information flows where it needs to go. If you get those right, the correct structure and motivators often become obvious.
Booz & Company also determined and ranked 17 traits that impact organization’s ability to deliver on the strategy.