If strategy is identifying what to do, execution is all about making it occur. It’s the follow thru. The next step.
The primary elements of successful execution are:
Clear goals for everybody within the company supportive of the general strategy
A method of measuring development towards those goals on a daily basis
Clear responsibility for that progress.
Those are the fundamentals. Beyond that, appropriate execution requires having a systematic way of helping people grasp reality and acting on it. Most companies don’t face reality very well. A key factor in management is to persuade people to face reality and then address it.
You don’t need to be a management expert to diagnose whether or not a company has a strong tradition of execution. It’s generally apparent in several ways:
- Business outcomes
- Reduced costs
- Retention of top performers
- Customer service
These people feel safe in expressing alternative viewpoints. They are not the first ones out the door. This is their company and they want to make it special. If you have ever sat through a meeting where afterward the company head, ask if there are any “questions.” You’ll get the idea
If the meeting includes a protracted power point presentation, packed with slides purporting to reveal all of the amazing things the presenting group has achieved; if others within the meeting sit quietly throughout, unwilling to ask questions or find flaws in floated ideas; if each person leaves the meeting without a clear understanding of what occurs next; and if the lead supervisor sits quietly throughout, then you definitely have every cause to be worried. This isn't a culture of execution.
Alternatively, if the presentation is brief and to the point; if the presenter sincerely highlights successes and disasters; if others feel free to question and debate the presentation; if there may be a common understanding among everybody in the room on goals and timelines, and if participants leave the room with a clear feel of what needs to occur next and who needs to do it, you then are in all likelihood witnessing a strong culture of execution.
Interestingly, it’s not usually the actions of the manager in the meeting room that will signal the nature of the culture. If a manager sits silently thru an unquestioned presentation, she or he might be failing to do the job. Same for a manager that raises questions or suggests goals that are a surprise to others in the room.
However, if a manager sits silently because the presenter does a fair critique; as others freely weigh in; and as every person leaves with a clear feel of goals, timelines, and next steps, then the manager is doing the job. she or he has created a successful culture of execution which can govern itself.
About Jim Woods
Jim Woods is President and Senior Consultant for Woods Kovalova Group. In this role he is responsible for bringing together Strategy with execution, helping clients to deliver their business strategies and operating models in light of future workforce needs. He is a published author and frequent speaker. Followed Jim on LinkedIn Twitter Facebook Clients