Even though I typically am called into clients to help elevate business performance derived through topics such as preparing for growth, improving service levels, reducing lead times and dramatically improving inventory turns, my technical expertise on those topics rarely if ever relate to why the preponderance of my business is repeat business. My best clients call me back because I partner with them on execution. People are engaged, and results follow.
When I look at the most important factors in success execution, I can boil it down to these four: 1) Leadership & Culture. 2) Focus. 3) Exemplars 4) Follow-up
- Leadership & Culture: Have you ever seen a successful company over the long-term with weak leaders? Never! Solid execution requires exceptional leadership - no exceptions.
What does this entail? Leaders must start by communicating where the company is headed. Explaining the vision is the cornerstone to success. Discuss its importance and how each team and individual employee can add value and contribute to the vision. Next, collaborative goals must be established. It should not be a dictation of goals or left completely to the employee; instead a collaborative process is optimal. Performance management systems should be in place. Immediate feedback (both positive and constructive) is a must. Training, development, and career paths should be a natural part of the performance management discussion. Leaders must ignore the temptation to focus on inputs (# of hours worked, tasks and activities); instead focus on outputs. Help employees develop plans, gain resources and overcome roadblocks to achieving the results. Celebrate success.
Culture shouldn't be an afterthought unless you'd prefer failure. What set of beliefs govern behavior? What does your culture support? Does your culture appreciate collaboration or individualism? For example, are you compensated and rewarded for team contributions or individual contributions even if at the expense of the team? Do leaders say one thing and do another? Don't bother executing until your leadership and culture are in sync with your goals.
- Focus: It's amazing what focus alone can accomplish. For example, a few of my clients have suffered for years with persistent problems. Of course, they tried many alternatives to resolve the issue and were frustrated. After we were able to resolve the problem by working together, they often said that although they thought my technical skills would help to resolve the problem, it had little to do with it. Instead, focus was the secret weapon.
Once executives focus on a select few root causes, seemingly insurmountable roadblocks disappear. The interesting thing about this is that it is as simple as it sounds, but it is not as easy to implement as it sounds. Why? Designing and improving processes and leveraging systems and technology will require focus; however, aligning people takes an exaggerated focus. How do we align disparate functions and people with conflicting goals and managers with a common focus? Go back to point #1!
- Exemplars: Another secret ingredient to execution success is to identify exemplars. Who are the influence leaders in the organization? Who sets an example that others will follow? They'll come from unexpected places and positions throughout the organization, and so keep an eye out for those people who others call or ask for advice after the meeting. Look for those who are not typically visible because they do not have issues. Ask people who they would be comfortable talking with if they wanted further clarification on a particular topic. You’ll find them.
Bring the exemplars into the fold. Ask them to trial the new program or process. Incorporate their feedback. Ask for their support. Empower them. Soon the rest will follow.
- Follow-up: I'm fondly known as a pit terrier when it comes to follow-up. We can attribute or blame this on my mom! However, it is a key reason for my success; I cannot count the times I've succeeded through determination alone. If you're interested in execution success, follow-up isn't an option.
A few tips from the pit terrier gene pool: 1) Start with a solid plan. 2) Ruthlessly identify priorities. 3) Ask questions about the priorities. 4) Listen. 5) Do not shy away from roadblocks and conflicts. 6) Continually improve your communication & presentation style as it's essential in handling conflicts. 7) Be upfront and trustworthy. 8) Track metrics but only focus on the key ones. 10) Be vigilant.
Execution is essential in today's new normal business environment. Improving business performance can be a constant struggle. Thus, what could be more important than being known as a rare person or company who consistently delivers results in a collaborative and engaging manner?
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