Execution

Authors: Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan (2002)

Why Execution Is Necessary?

1. Execution Is a Discipline.

No worthwhile business strategy can be planned without taking into account how to execute it. Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability.

2. Execution Is the Major Job of a Business Leader.

Many business leaders like to think that the top dog is exempt from the details of actually running things, that setting strategy from the mountaintop is enough. In reality, only a leader can make execution happen, through deep personal involvement.

3. Execution Must Be a Core Element of aBusiness Culture.

Execution must be embedded in the reward systems and in the norms of behavior that everyone practices.

Building Block 1: The Leader’s Seven Essential Behaviors

  • Know your people and your business: Leaders have to live their businesses. In companies that don’t execute, the leaders are usually out of touch with dayto-day realities.
  • Insist on realism: Many organizations are full of people who try to avoid or shake reality, because it is uncomfortable, or too revealing of mistakes made.
  • Set clear goals and priorities: Leaders who execute focus on a very few clear priorities, for a number of reasons: (1) focusing on fewer priorities will produce the best results from the resources at hand and (2) people in contemporary organizations need a small number of clear priorities to execute well.
  • Follow through: Leaders must surface conflicts that stand in the way of achieving results, and create followthrough mechanisms, such as follow-up meetings, to ensure everyone will do what they’re supposed to.
  • Reward the doers: If you want people to produce specific results, you must reward them accordingly.
  • Expand people’s capabilities: One of the most important parts of a leader’s job is passing on his or her experience and wisdom to the next generation of leaders.
  • Know yourself: Deal honestly with business and organizational realities, or give people forthright assessments. This emotionalfortitude is comprised of four core qualities: authenticity, self-awareness, self-mastery, and humility.

Building Block 2: Create the Framework For Cultural Change

  • A New Way of Thinking: To deliver better results, start with examining whether your organization’s ingrained beliefs are helping the business perfect its execution.
  • Change Behavior by Changing Rewards: You must reward not simply on strong achievements on numbers, but also on the desirable behaviors that people adopt.
  • The Importance of Dialogue: You cannot have an execution culture without such a dialogue — one that brings realityto the surface through openness, candor, and informality. Your people must enter into such a dialogue withopen minds, uncluttered by misconceptions or propaganda. Everyone must be open to speaking candidly, and to receiving the real opinions of others as well.

Building Block 3: Have the Right People In the Right Place

Why, then, are the right people not in the right jobs? Here are some of the reasons:

  • Lack of knowledge: Leaders often rely on sometimes fuzzy or prejudiced staff appraisals when placing people into positions. They should, instead, define the job in terms of its three or four nonnegotiable criteria
  • Lack of courage: There are innumerable cases of the wrong person being kept in the wrong job, simply because the person’s leader doesn’t have the emotional fortitude totake decisive action, confront the person, and make a change. Such failures do considerable damage to a business; indeed, if the non-performer is high enough in the organization, he or she can be particularly destructive.
  • The psychological comfort factor: Many jobs are filled with the wrong people because the leaders who promote them are comfortable with them, and the employees are loyal to those leaders. However, if that loyalty is based on the wrong factors (social reasons, rather than professional, etc.), it could be damaging. Often, breaking free of this comfort factor is exactly what a leader must do to bring about change.
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