The problem of execution

by MPA23 Dec 2016
According to recent studies, two-thirds of corporate strategy is never executed. Companies spend a lot of time and resources on thinking ahead, deciding their long-term vision and strategy. They engage consulting firms and their top leaders to do so. They involve many people and resources to produce a lovely Word document and numerous PowerPoint slides to display their plan and strategy, only to see that two-thirds of it will never be executed.
 
The issue is rarely the quality of the strategy and action plan decided. One of the biggest challenges for companies today is execution. They might be clear on their strategy, on where they want to head. But if you look at what people are doing on a day-to-day basis, what they spend their time on hour per hour, you realize there is often a big gap between what they are doing and the company strategies, divisional goals and KPIs they are supposed to be working towards.
 
Here are a few simple examples of organizational ineffectiveness.
 
Ask 10 people in the same business three simple questions:
 
What are the goals of your organization?
What are the goals of your team and how do they align with the goals of your organization?
What are your KPIs and how do they align with the goals of your organization?
 
Simple questions, but when we ask them we have found a few interesting things:
1. The majority of people do not know their organization’s goals
2. The majority of people have no idea what their team or they should do for their organization to reach its goals.
 
Personal ineffectiveness is different but has a huge impact as well. It all starts from a simple observation: most of us have never been taught how to work. Most people are committed to their role and want to do a good job. They are neither lazy nor unwilling. But they are not working efficiently.
 
How each person can create a discipline of execution:
 
Think quarterly
The first characteristic of highly successful people is that they are very clear on the goals they want to achieve and what they need to do to achieve them. To do this, you need to decide not only what to focus on, but also on what you will not do.
 
Once a quarter, block off an hour with your team and ask each person to answer a simple question: ‘What are the two or three things that if you did them extremely well over the next three months will have a significant long-term impact on the team/division/company’s performance?’
 
Plan weekly
Once a week, each person needs to review their three high-impact activities for the quarter and organize their coming week. These activities have to become a must, a priority. Book meetings with yourself in your diary to advance your three activities. Organize your calendar so that 60–80% of your time is spent on them.
 
Act daily – focus
Be disciplined on a daily basis. If you have booked a meeting with yourself to spend two hours on one of your core high-impact activities, be 100% focused on this topic. No distraction, no interruption, no starting late, having a break or checking a few emails mid-stream.
 
Ask yourself a simple question: why would you have less respect or be less prepared for a meeting with yourself than with a very important client?
 
A few last words
All of the above is simple but it is rarely applied. And as a result, many companies struggle to achieve what was agreed in their strategic plan.
 
Bain Consulting did an interesting study on strategy execution. They surveyed nearly 2,000 large companies and found that seven out of eight failed to achieve profitable growth, even though more than 90% had detailed strategic plans. This is because the strategic plan is only the tip of the iceberg.

Execution is what lies beneath and what will enable businesses to perform.
 
 
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Cyril Peupion, author of ‘Work Smarter: Live Better’. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.

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