The QBR is a White Elephant

Conventional wisdom states that CEOs oversee a quarterly business review (QBR) with direct reports. The available literature and fellow CEOs reinforce that these quarterly get-togethers are necessary to keep the team working together.  And yet, QBRs, as they are executed across corporate America, are failing to produce results. Some have already tumbled to this reality.


Why are QBR meetings deficient?

There is no common methodology or set of best practices on how to run QBRs effectively. In fact, it’s even worse than that because each functional area usually performs their own QBRs. And each functional QBR has a different format, goals, and structure. A Sales QBR is radically different from a Finance QBR. They in turn are quite different from a Product Development, Marketing, or Operations QBR.


The Result is Strategic Misalignment

Thus, when the CEO hosts a corporate QBR, each function leader brings their own biases and views on what a QBR should be and injects them into the process. This creates cognitive dissonance within the same group of peers that are supposed to be working together.  QBRs capture the view of each functional area as expressed in terms that are only of relevance and interest to that functional area. This is an “inside-out” approach. No function is aligned to the other. Each is advancing their own interests. This oftentimes also runs counter to the firm’s long-term objectives.


So how can you resolve this discrepancy?CEOs__Should_Stop_Holding_QBRs1The answer is simple — Change your QBR to a QSA.


What is a Quarterly Strategic Alignment (QSA) meeting?


QSAs provide an opportunity for each functional area to prove that it is actually aligned to the other functional areas. This is an “outside-in” approach. Functional leaders who present at a QSA must demonstrate that their actions, their plans, and their strategy are completely aligned with their peers’ strategies. And everyone needs to stay in lock step with the firm strategy. 


Implementing a Quarterly Strategic Alignment Approach for 2015

Here are some best practices for designing a QSA for your team.


  1. Document each function’s annual strategic plan using the same methodology. Half the challenge of a CEO is trying to read and understand strategies that are each assembled using different logic, format, structure, and approach. This “uniqueness” puts the burden on the CEO to make sense of it all. That is the exact wrong place. Functional leaders need to use the same approach – this enables alignment.
    • Call-to-action: Ensure each function produces its own published strategy using a common framework, each strategy has quantifiable goals, and all strategies have been reconciled with each other.


  2. Ensure all Functions focus on the future. QSAs require each functional leader to attempt systematic and increasingly accurate predictions. Get your team used to looking down the road. Build the skill of prognostication. “Don’t tell me what you did tell me what you’re going to do.”
    • Call-to-action: Ensure that all functional leaders provide leading indicators of performance to which you can hold them accountable, rather than the backward looking or lagging indicators.


  3. Use benchmarking to inform comparison. The Finance and Operations leader will typically present status of their department in the context of industry benchmarks. These points of comparison include data productivity metrics, financial controls, and best practices. When functional leaders compare their performance against their own past, competitors, and related industries the insights generated are compelling.
    • Call-to-action: Incorporate the discipline of benchmarking into your QSA framework.


  4. Export your excellence to your own sales and channel teams. Once you have mastered the QSA with your own direct reports, assess how your sales executives and channel management executives are conducting quarterly reviews with their own customers/partners. Odds are you will find them full of inconsistency, ineffectiveness, and strategic misalignment.
    • Call-to-action: Port your best practices used internally to a new QSA process with your own customers and partners.


If you are trying to improve your oversight of the Sales and Marketing functions via the QBR/QSA process, consider these other insights:



For CEOs who think these suggestions have merit, give us a ring.  Contant us here.


Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.

Once the leader of SBI Delivery, Mike is now head of the firm’s internal talent development, so he has had the fortune to help some amazing sales and marketing leaders. He starts by earning their trust. Much of this comes from his deep base of experience. With more than 25 years in sales, sales management, pre-sales and sales operations, he’s never met a challenge he didn’t like. And with backgrounds in sales leadership, marketing, and sales operations, he shuns the idea of being a desk jockey and relishes the idea of living in the field.


Mike maintains, develops, and leverages SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Maniacally focused on execution, Mike does not believe in giving clients fancy deliverables with no operational details. He knows that field adoption is key. After all, if behavior doesn’t change, the lift doesn’t come. Likewise, if those closest to the field adopt the solution, the client wins.

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