Execution - A Book Summary


You've got the bright ideas and the smart people, and the market is just ready for you. But why hasn't your business taken off as you predicted? Maybe the problem is in your execution. What does it really take to get a business going? You need the right people combined with realistic strategies to create effective operating procedures. Let Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan tell you how.

A business leader's most important job is the execution of plans, the "detail work," making sure that the staff is getting results. This is the sort of responsibility that cannot be delegated. It is the leader's primary duty to see that every member of the team is carrying out his part of the big plan to ensure the whole company's success. There are no excuses for failure: the market will always be tough. What spells the difference between successes and failures is the ability to execute plans.

Too often, too much intellectualizing and philosophy occurs at the planning level. The leaders are busy with their dreams and plans for success but there is little focus on implementation, thus the promised result is not delivered. The emphasis on execution as an integral part of the business process has not received enough attention in terms of accumulated knowledge and literature.

The Building Blocks of Execution

The Leader's Seven Essential Behaviors

1. Know Your People and Your Business.

2. Insist on Realism.

3. Set Clear Goals and Priorities.

4. Follow Through.

5. Reward the Doers.

6. Expand People's Capabilities through Coaching.

7. Know Yourself.

Creating the Framework for Cultural Change

You can't just institute changes for the sake of shaking things up at your company. Your changes must be geared towards getting results. Be specific: what sort of behavior is acceptable in your company? What's unacceptable? Change must begin at the top-level, to set an example down the line. Don't just expect it to happen either. Reward successful implementation of your plans to instigate change.

The Job No Leader Should Delegate-Having the Right People in the Right Jobs

Hiring the right people is as important as planning ahead; you need people who are not only capable, but also full of potential for growth as your business expands. Take time to focus on your staff, because in effect your business is in their hands. Take time to develop your staff's leadership capabilities so that they can bring results to your plans and visions. Assess individual capabilities and determine if you can further develop your employee through training, coaching and exposure, or if he's better off elsewhere. If you can properly develop your people, you should be able to fill top administrative posts from within. Hire a talented person and she will hire a talented person.

The Processes of Execution

A. Linking People to Strategy and Operations

Break your strategy down into manageable near-, medium- and long-term goals. Determine kinds of skills you need for the upcoming goals and start laying the foundations early. Then design an action plan for each step of your big plan.

B. Developing the Leadership Pipeline Through Continuous Improvement, Succession Depth and Reducing Retention Risk

Meeting your goals depends on the quality of the people you have. Assess today those who can be leaders in the future through the following: The Leadership Assessment Summary, The Continuous Improvement Summary, Succession Depth, and Reducing Retention Risk Analysis.

C. Dealing with Non-performers

Non-performers are people who aren't meeting their established goals. This does not mean that they're unqualified or incapable. It just means they aren't performing at the level required for your company's success. Sometimes you just need to coach a person to get them better acquainted with a job. Sometimes they just need to be transferred to another division or responsibility that's better suited to their capabilities. Other times there's no choice but to let him go. However, do so in a manner that allows the person to keep his dignity.

D. Linking HR to Business Results

The role of the HR department in a company is different now. The HR function must set out to fill the positions that are and will be important as projects and plans progress over the upcoming months-even years. Use the HR division to keep track of your company's top people across the whole organization, to see who can be groomed, or even promoted already, for key positions. HR should not only be able to assess people in their current jobs but also the people below them-if one person is to be promoted, someone should be adequately qualified to fill the upcoming void.

Examine all your strategies and determine the sorts of skills you need for these plans. If you can't develop the right people in time, determine if you need to hire from outside. Identify which jobs are critical, and which ones will be critical down the line. Are they filled with the right people? Monitor also the top positions in the company and spell out criteria for filling them. If there is a sudden vacancy, is there someone you haven't considered who might be more than qualified? If you know your people and their capabilities, filling the vacancy should be a small problem, especially if you've done your job in developing them for leadership.

The Importance of Hows

Even brilliant strategies are bound to fail if not grounded in realities-regarding the competition, the capabilities of the company's own people, the market, the product offerings. When creating strategies, consider not only the current realities of all relevant factors, but also unexpected-if unlikely-turns of events. There must always be backup plans, or at least people who can quickly think up alternative plans to make the best of a botched situation. Adaptability to change should always be a consideration: constantly review your plan to see if it is being executed properly, if current and future steps are still feasible, and if the people in charge are still getting results.

Building the Operating Plan

1. Set the targets: Keep your targets realistic. Base them on track records and histories.

2. Develop action and contingency plans: Study the possible outcomes that might leave the company most vulnerable and base your contingency plan on that. In other words, plan for the worst.

3. Get agreement and closure from all participants: Communicate agreed-upon goals to the people concerned after the meeting, to reiterate your expectations and what they promised to deliver.

Outcomes of the Operations Process

Think carefully: what does your business want to achieve? Think of this vis-à-vis what your company is likely to achieve. Watch how the operations affect your company, especially for the need to reallocate resources. Conduct quarterly reviews to see if you're still on track, who's keeping you there, and if you should even be there in the first place.

By: Regine P. Azurin and Yvette Pantilla Regine Azurin is the President of BusinessSummaries.com, a company that provides business book summaries of the latest bestsellers for busy executives and entrepreneurs.

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