Guide to Establishing an Effective Operating Rhythm

By Ted Delicath

As you accelerate out of the COVID curve, does your team need to relook at the way you are working together? Review our Operating Rhythm guidance - the habitual cadence in which the team meets, shares information and disperses to get work done. Focus in on the right cadence connect your team with the right information, at the right time.

While sharing the right information is vital to connect with your teams, it’s just as important to focus on the frequency of your messages. Every team has an operating rhythm – the habitual cadence in which the team meets, shares information and disperses to get work done – but most of these rhythms happen by accident.

It is particularly easy for teams in today’s challenging environment to fall into a convenient, but suboptimal rhythm. You need to keep a pulse on your team’s operating rhythm and routinely fine tune the cadence to match the speed of the environment, making sure that everyone, regardless of where they work, is staying connected and receiving the essential information they need when they need it.

Here are two questions your teams should ask themselves, as they are developing your operating rhythm:

1. “How fast is our environment changing?” Leaders often overlook this question. While an operating rhythm is a series of internal processes, we should model those internal processes to keep pace with the external environment. For example, when McChrystal group helped city and state governments stand-up fusion cells, COVID’s effects dictated our meeting cadence. At the start of the pandemic, we synced with hundreds of public health officials and government leaders on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week tempo. The pandemic dictated this frequency as anything longer would leave problems to fester and the relevancy of data to spoil. The takeaway here is you cannot design an operating rhythm until you look outward and answer, “What outcomes should my operating rhythm enable?”

When we work with private partners, the answer often revolves around empowering their front-line leaders to act with greater autonomy, enabling those closest to the problem to solve it, or those nearest to the opportunity to capitalize without asking for permission.

2. “Currently, how quickly can our organization adapt to change?” This question prompts leaders to look internally, asking for an honest assessment of an organization’s current structures, processes, and behaviors.

Operating Rhythm Diagram Graphic.png

Here’s how you should think about the strategic, operational, and tactical decisions in your organization:

  • Shape the operating rhythm through select meetings that convey clear and actionable strategic intent. The least frequent of the three strategic meetings shape the organization by providing high-level, senior-leader plan that cascades to comparatively junior teammates. These teammates interpret, operationalize, and translate that strategic guidance for their teams throughout the organization.
  • Monitor the organization’s pulse and maintain momentum with informed operational syncs. These meetings must be a two-way street flowing strategic intent down to teams and bubbling up front-line reports to their superiors in a digestible format that respects a senior leader’s limited time.
  • Outpace the organization’s external environment by empowering front-line teams with tactical guidance, resources, and support. By creating a culture of communicate, teams can outpace their environments.

For more in-depth insights for how to leverage establishing an effective operating rhythm to build intentional leadership, download our Way to Work in 2022 Playbook below.

Ted Delicath

Principal

Ted Delicath currently serves as an Implementation Principal committed to solving our client’s most consequential problems. While at McChrystal Group, Ted has supported tech, biomanufacturing, and energy companies in drafting and implementing new strategies, solving an array of problems, and reinvigorating cultures. His longest-running engagement concerned working with a Midwest state in responding to COVID-19. His team spent twelve months on the ground during the pandemic. Notably, Ted assisted in drafting and executing the State’s vaccination rollout and supporting systems.

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