Execution in business
Peter F. Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. Similarly, I would say that planning is doing things right, while execution is doing the right things.
Regardless if there is a good plan or a bad one, without the proper execution, the results will be lacklustre—at best! Hence the popular saying by Jeff Bridge, “Execution is everything”. It is expected that during execution people get diverted. This diversion leads to poor or improper execution, ultimately resulting in less favourable outcomes. Such diversions are most often the result of “pull” or “push” pressures that amplify during the course of execution. Oftentimes, diversion, itself, leads to more pressure on the person, and this amount of pressure determines how far the person diverted.
These days, with the COIVD – 19 pandemic and the consequences of working from home, new sources of challenges arise to increase various types of pressure on the person. These pressures include, but are not limited to, worries about getting infected by the virus itself; getting implicated with the economic situation; feeling of isolation; and fears of frustration and depression—each, or all of which, contribute to the end result.
This article will highlight the steps on how to stay focused on executing the task, which helps translate intent to reality and make for a smoother and more achievable path. It will also highlight tips on how to help people get back on track in case of diversion.
“Execution is putting your mind, your heart and your body in action”, Noura Hamade
There are prerequisites to help carry the execution successfully and avoid any execution pitfalls. These prerequisites include:
- Clear vision of where we need to be;
- Clear understanding of where we are;
- Clear knowledge of what options we have to reach there;
- Aligned individuals who have the right skills related to the required task, in addition to their ability to implement. They are aware of both the big picture and have a clear understanding of their tasks. To help motivate them, they should also know what is in it for them.
Once the above is in place, the following are the three steps to manage your execution successfully:
a) Priorities: Before carrying out the act of putting the plan into effect, the first step is to prioritize the implementation by developing phases of implementation to make it happen based on business priorities. Doing so, means listing all the actions, and prioritizing them based on the following criteria:
- Which action has more impact on the results?
- Which action brings me closer to where I need to be?
- Which action has priority (i.e. quick-win, relevance, urgency, etc.)
After that, it is all about just do it and the discipline in doing it.
“Just Do IT” —NIKE
b) Review: Assess the current state to recognize where you are, assessing your progress by asking the simple question, “where are we against the organization’s performance indicator”, and against the target (plan). Then define and analyze the gap with the intention to take any corrective actions and changes, as needed.
c) Improve: The improvement stage is a concept that aims to enhance performance which allows us to improve our results and deliver better-than-expected results. It is very important at this stage to recognize and understand the outcome of the review.
Based on the review outcome and the gap analysis, you should conduct corrective actions to address potential gaps. This could require more challenging courses of action, such as adjusting the initial plan. Part of building the corrective actions part, is to understand what leads to this diversion, and recognize the pressure, the source of that pressure, and whether you can control it or manage it, and how you can minimize the effects of it. All the while, being mindful of improvement: It is a process and should be weaved into the culture of all organizations. Improvement should be considered in one of the two following conditions:
- If the review identifies a gap between the actual and the plan
- If any new factors arise and could impact the plan or the execution
Finally, the trap which most executives find themselves in, after the improvement stage and the corrective actions, is directly starting the implementation without realigning the stakeholders involved in the initial plan, or the persons affected by these corrective actions. This trap will result in the failure of the process.