My favorite story about one of my favorite topics (execution) comes from my favorite NFL team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) during my least-favorite era of theirs (a 26-game losing streak from 1976-77). Bucs head coach John McKay, who used his dry sense of humor as a coping mechanism, was asked after yet another loss what he thought of his team’s execution. He replied, “I’m in favor of it.”
That’s funny, but let me now give you a serious execution-related quote that I’ve repeated dozens of times since reading the book Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done: “Execution is the missing link between aspirations and results.” When I talk with software developer executives, they all have plans and ideas, but the ones who are actually winning are the ones who are actually executing.
Execution addresses this important topic on both macro and micro levels. Since reading this book in 2006, I’ve tried to follow the best practice Execution shares about former Chrysler, Home Depot, and GE executive Robert Nardelli. The book says, “Nardelli never finishes a conversation without summarizing the actions to be taken. He made his vision credible by breaking it down into bite-size successes. … Never finish a meeting without clarifying what the follow-through will be, who will do it, when and how they will do it, what resources they will use, and how and when the next review will take place with and with whom.” I figured if that tactic worked for a guy with a net worth measured in the hundreds of millions, it could work for little old me.
Here are 30 more of my favorite passages and concepts from the book:
- Putting an execution environment in place is hard, but losing it is easy.
- Execution is not just tactics – it is a discipline and a system. It has to be built into a company’s strategy, its goals, and its culture. And the leader of the organization must be deeply engaged in it.
- Leading for execution is not rocket science. The main requirement is that you as a leader have to be deeply and passionately engaged in your organization and honest about its realities with others and yourself.
- The problem with many so-called strategies is that they’re too abstract and shallow, or else they’re really operations plans, not strategies.
- No strategy delivers results unless it’s converted into specific actions.
- To understand execution, you have to keep three key points in mind: (1) execution is discipline, and integral to strategy; (2) execution is the major job of the business leader; (3) execution must be a core element of an organization’s culture.
- Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability.
- Execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it.
- People leave with no commitments to the action plans they’ve helped create. This is a formula for failure.
- Shaping a plan: (1) involve all the people responsible for the plan’s outcome in shaping the plan; (2) ask specific hows of execution; (3) set milestones for the progress of the plan.
- If you’re really executing, and you have the resources, you are listening to tomorrow’s customers as well as today’s and planning for their needs.
- The Building Blocks of Execution – 7 Essential Behaviors
- Know your people and your business
- Insist on realism
- Set clear goals and priorities
- Follow through
- Reward the doers
- Expand people’s capabilities
- Know yourself
- Cultural change gets real when your aim is execution.
- We don’t think ourselves into a new way of acting. We act ourselves into a new way of thinking.
- You get what you measure for.
- A good motto to observe is “truth over harmony.” Candor helps wipe out the silent lies and pocket vetoes, and it prevents the stalled initiatives and rework that drain energy.
- An organization’s human beings are its most reliable resource for generating excellent results year after year.
- Why people aren’t in the right jobs: The leaders aren’t personally committed to the people processes and deeply engaged in it.
- The foundation of a great company is the way it develops people.
- Ask this important question in the hiring process: How good is this person at getting things done?
- If a strategy does not address the hows, it is a candidate for failure.
- A good strategic plan is a set of directions you want to take. It’s a roadmap, lightly filled in, so that it gives you plenty of room to maneuver. You get specific when you’re deciding the action part of the plan, where you link it with people and operations.
- Milestones bring reality to a strategic plan.
- A good strategic plan is adaptable. Once-a-year planning can be dangerous.
- A strategic plan contains ideas that are specific and clear. Numbers are obviously needed, but those that are detailed line by line and are mechanically extrapolated over five years offer little in the way of insight.
- Watch out for taking on too many projects.
- One powerful technique is to send each person a memo outlining the details of the agreements.
- Quarterly reviews help keep plans up to date and reinforce synchronization.
- A stretch goal has basically two purposes: (1) it can force you to think about doing things in a radically different way; (2) it can help you to execute exceptionally well.
- The heart of a business is how the three processes of people, strategy, and operations link together. Leaders need to master the individual processes and the way they work together as a whole. They are the differentiation between you and your competitors.
If you’d like to talk more about how to instill more discipline in your ISV organization, please reach out to me. My job as a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services is to work with Vantiv partners to help them clarify their vision, hire the best team, develop staff, establish best practice systems, improve customer service, and more.
Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.