indicators for company burnout

„It’s not just individuals who burn out – companies do, too!“

This headline is taken from the harvard business review april 2010 [HBR2010]. It is an important message to all decision makers but even more important to all interim managers and lean practitioners as their constant companion in business life is change. How do you know? What should you do?

How do you know?

There are various ways and indicators to become aware of an upcoming company burnout. The most important are:

  • the pre-warning-system called employees reflecting the company culture
  • missing an aligned, focused and clear strategy

Culture: it’s all about the people

First, the people – your employees – already know the symptoms even without knowing the root cause. They will complain about workload, receiving calls and emails outside working hours, intervention of management, missing decisions, constantly shifting priorities, etc. Check out the 16 questions in the section „does your company have an acceleration culture?“ of the HBR article.

Strategy: understanding your actual/future situation, understanding change management

To understand the actual situation a simple tool should help. Don’t over engineer it, just ask a representative amount of manager and employees, where they would position the company inside the following matrix:

indicators for company burnout
matrix with indicators for company burnout


We experienced in our assignments, that your employees are the most reliable source to estimate the energy level. In regards of strategy level it is not so easy. Having management by objectives is place is no real indicator, but the most common answer. „Strategic thinking“? „Yes, maybe a good start, what do you mean by that?“… Silence.

Another helpful tool is to understand the big picture before you drill into details:

  • How many life cycles mastered your company already?
  • What is your current situation like?
  • Are you going through constant growth (stable system), changes or even revolution (kaikaku)?

The following slide should give you a short overview:

evolution and revolution as company growth
evolution and revolution as company growth. big picture.

If you did this two analysis then you should be aware of your actual situation. Maybe you are going through a radical change where lots of activities are necessary.

How can you prevent a company burnout during this times of change?

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS and POLICY DEPLOYMENT (HOSHIN KANRI) is our answer. The more activities you think are necessary to start, the more important is:

  • to align all activities towards a clear strategy
  • to prioritize well by differentiating breakthrough objectives from other objectives
  • to put clear responsibilities behind every measurement figure
  • to communicate „the end of the tunnel“

External partners or interim managers are a good source to bring your company through times of change. The more experienced the external partner, interim manager or internal management is, the better. The more business approved procedures and management systems are, the better. Latest at the fourth stage of a company life cycle policy deployment is an absolute must have. Good companies start straight away with this great management system.

Please do not hesitate to leave your input on this topic or get in touch with us.

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