In today’s dynamic business environment, the path to success can be tricky. Success is much more than having a solid strategy—it’s about how effectively that strategy is executed.
In a world where change is the only constant, traditional business management frameworks, including OKRs and other goal-setting methods, often fall short of delivering the desired results. These methods struggle to adapt and keep up, leaving many organizations facing a stark reality: their strategies don’t align with the complex world dominated by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. As a result, companies struggle to cope with unforeseen challenges, rapidly shifting markets and the need for agility like never before.
Another important stumbling block is hierarchical erosion ¹ (Gibson, Birkinshaw, McDaniel-Sumpter & Ambos, 2019), a term used to describe the unfortunate phenomenon where employee perceptions become less favorable as you move down the hierarchy within an organization. It’s like having different teams speaking different languages, and that’s not a recipe for success.
Traditional management frameworks like OKRs, VVIG or Balanced Scorecard, often lead to hierarchical erosion. This further creates a disconnect among team members, often because there’s not enough transparent communication and the employees lower down the ladder lack access to crucial strategic information. As a result, team members can feel like they’re in the dark, demotivated and unable to contribute effectively to the company’s goals. It isn’t just a nuisance—it negatively impacts business performance. So, what can we do about it?
It turns out that shifting from traditional top-down management to a more inclusive, bottom-up approach is a game-changer. When you emphasize open communication and involve the full spectrum of employees in decision-making, you reduce hierarchical erosion and encourage a shared understanding and reality. This way, you’re on the path to improving performance and achieving greater success.
Why the Art of Acceleration was created
Recognizing the need for a fresh approach, we embarked on a journey to create a new people-centric methodology that would bridge the gap between strategy and execution. It took us over 4 years of real-life execution, literature reviews, consulting and pilot programs—and we’re now ready to share it with the world.
And so, we are introducing the Art of Acceleration (AOA).
The inspiration for developing an employee-centric management methodology came from the fundamental belief that people are at the center of success. This conviction was reinforced through the books “Art of Action” and “Teams of Teams,” which extensively describe how crucial human beings are for a company’s success. It’s unfortunate that these books are related to warfare, but they shed light on the dynamics, speed and unpredictability that building a company entails.
AOA was born from a deep understanding of the challenges modern businesses face. It wasn’t designed in an ivory tower but has been shaped by real-world experiences, discussions with C-level leaders and the insights gained from a variety of industries. It was also the secret ingredient behind our success with has·to·be—securing a Series A €12M financing round and landing a €250M market exit two years later, Austria’s biggest to date.
“About 80% of AOA was developed through practical application. Everything we have today has been validated in the real world. And most importantly, it works! We developed AOA in everyday life with our teams, applying the principle of «learning by doing» and learning from mistakes quickly.” — Martin Klässner, CEO GrowthSquare and former CEO has·to·be
When traditional frameworks fall short
After our Series A financing, we initially tried implementing the traditional OKR framework at has·to·be to prepare for exponential growth. We invested a lot of time and resources in the implementation and attended numerous OKR trainings. However, we didn’t receive positive feedback from our team. Defining appropriate objectives and results was challenging and led to constant discussions. We tried to implement it without constant consultant support but soon realized that we couldn’t set up the system correctly on our own. That left us wondering, what would happen if the consultants were gone? The last straw was when we noticed that despite all these efforts, our employees were inclined to make rather unfortunate decisions with the sole objective of meeting key results. We needed something better, more sustainable in the long term.
And so, an idea was born.
We decided to develop our Art of Acceleration (AOA) methodology based on inspiration from business literature and other approaches that place a stronger focus on employees. We wanted to work with a people-centric methodology that’s intuitive and easy to use for everyone. A framework that’s flexible, widely applicable and unlocks individual potential while fostering teamwork across all departments and hierarchy levels. Creating AOA was an ambitious task, for sure, but it rewarded us tenfold by helping us close the strategy and execution gap while accelerating our success.
After the successful implementation in has·to·be and landing the market exit, we asked ourselves: Can AOA also work for other companies? Was AOA just a stroke of luck at has·to·be or can it be successful for other companies too?
We now have the answer—AOA simply works. In the last two years, we have supported over ten startups and scaleups with successfully implementing AOA and discussed strategy implementation with many others. We found out what the best way to execute strategy successfully is, what prerequisites are needed, and what challenges are associated with it.
“Many companies had introduced OKRs for a period of 6 to 12 months and then had to stop. This was mainly due to the fact that it takes a lot of time and effort for teams to work with OKRs, for employees to understand them and think in their mindset and format. It contradicts our intuitive way of thinking. Around 80 to 90 percent of those we interviewed abandoned OKRs and continued to look for a better alternative. This was why we wanted to share the AOA methodology with everyone out there.” — Martin Klässner, CEO GrowthSquare and former CEO has·to·be
We believe that successful strategies should engage and empower your entire team. AOA emerged as a solution that prioritizes people and teamwork, empowering individuals at all levels to contribute, make decisions and drive the business forward.
Why AOA matters
The core of AOA lies in people-centricity powered by simplicity and clarity. We firmly believe that empowering individuals to understand, believe in and align with the company’s strategy is the key to success in the VUCA world. There are many benefits AOA brings to the table, but for now, here’s a glimpse:
Complete transparency: AOA fosters transparency and alignment, ensuring every member of the organization is on the same page.
Strategy clarity: AOA makes your strategy simple, tangible and understandable, helping everyone to clearly see the path forward.
Efficient decision-making: It empowers individuals to make informed decisions based on the company’s overarching strategy.
Enhanced team performance: When every team member is motivated, committed and aligned with the strategy, performance soars.
Adaptability: AOA’s flexibility enables companies to pivot and adjust to the ever-changing business landscape.
As the world continues to evolve and become increasingly complex, the need for a new approach to strategy execution has never been more crucial. AOA is here to fill that gap, empowering businesses to navigate complexity, achieve clarity and accelerate their journey towards success.
1 Gibson, C. B., Birkinshaw, J., Sumpter, D. M., & Ambos, T. C. (2019). The Hierarchical Erosion Effect: A new perspective on perceptual differences and business performance. Journal of Management Studies, 56(8), 1713–1747. https://doi.org/10.1111/joms.12443