The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution

Are you currently working on a team that is experiencing one or more of the following?

  • “We have great starts, but struggle with finishing strong – on time, on budget.”
  • “We say “yes” to tight project deadlines knowing full well we can’t finish it given the timelines and resources provided”
  • “We delivered the result – but it wasn’t the quality and level of solution we were hoping for.”

If this describes your situation, chances are there are crucial conversations you are either not holding or holding well, that are keeping you from getting the results you really want. The real question is: What is the cost to your organization?

A business’ success depends on flawless execution of key business strategies. What we know is that successful execution of these very strategies lives in the quality of our conversations. Yet, many of us struggle to speak up when we see things that are not creating success. As a result, what we don’t say or don’t say well acts as a barrier to successful execution and ultimately impacts our own and our organization’s results.

The Silence Fails StudySilence Fails Study
Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution research study, conducted by VitalSmarts and The Concours Group, uncovers five crucial issues—defined in the study as crucial conversations—that have an enormous impact on whether high-stakes business initiatives succeed.

The Silence Fails study demonstrates that when even one of these crucial conversations fails, a silent crisis plays out in a deceptively simple dynamic that results in failure to execute an initiative 85 percent of the time. The visible outcomes include going over budget, missing deadlines, and failing to meet quality and functionality specs. Team morale is inevitably damaged in the process. Over time people become cynical and are resistant to change.

Alternately, when these conversations succeed, the failure rate is reduced by 50 to 70 percent.

The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution: –

The five crucial conversations identified by the study are the most prevalent and most costly barriers to project success. They are:

  1. Fact-Free Planning: – A project is set up to fail when deadlines or resource limits are set with no consideration for reality. Eighty-five percent of participants experienced this problem on nearly 40 percent of their projects.
  2. AWOL Sponsors: – A sponsor doesn’t provide leadership, political clout, time, or energy to see a project through to completion. Sixty-five percent experienced this on one-third of their projects. Fewer than 12 percent of those indicated that they could skillfully address this issue.
  3. Skirting: – People work around the priority-setting process. Just over 50 percent of project leaders attempt to speak up on this issue, and only 16 percent of those solve the problem.
  4. Project Chicken: – Team leaders and members don’t admit when there are problems with a project but instead wait for someone else to speak up first. While 55 percent of study participants experienced this problem, fewer than 14 percent of those skillfully addressed it.free_download silence fails study report
  5. Team Failures: – Team members perpetuate dysfunction when they are unwilling or unable to support the project. Encountered by 80 percent of all project leaders with very few of those feeling able to address this issue, team failures go unaddressed nearly half of the time.

When a Conversation Fails: –

These concerns are more common than most leaders realize; 90 percent of project managers routinely encounter one or more of these five concerns—and nearly one in five projects are plagued by all five. But the problem isn’t that these concerns are common; in fact, they may be an inevitable part of any strategic implementation. The problem is that those who encounter these problems don’t effectively confront and resolve them. This study reveals that only half ever attempt to confront the problems, and when they do, only 17 percent say they are able to get their concerns heard and understood. This study also reveals that many leaders lack the skills to address these issues and instead, often see themselves as the scapegoats and feel they are ignored, blown off, or pressured into submission.

The Good News: –

Although this study shares important findings that can predict and explain failure, the most important implication of the research is the potential that leaders have to influence success. In each of the five crucial conversations, the study found that just speaking up can make a difference and that speaking up skillfully and effectively dramatically improves project success. When these conversations succeed, the impact on the course of the initiative is profound. Those who successfully address one or more of the five issues are 50 percent to 70 percent more likely to fully achieve project objectives—on budget, on schedule, on spec, and with intact team morale.

Next Steps: –

As organizational leaders, we have the ability to predict and prevent the failure of high-stakes business initiatives by creating a culture where the five conversations are held quickly and effectively. Silence Fails provides insights and recommendations on how senior leaders can develop a business case for change, measure behaviors, invest in skills, hold senior management accountable, and make heroes of early adopters.


We invite you to participate in a survey conducted by Leadership Consulting – VitalSmarts India on “Holding Slacking Coworkers Accountable”.

This 8-question survey will take 5 minutes of yours and responses will be kept confidential. To complete the survey online, please go to

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