Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Silly rabbit – execution doesn’t come in a box but if it did many CEOs would sleep better at night. According to a global survey of chief executives by The Conference Board, when asked to rate their greatest concerns from among 94 challenges, the sample of CEOs chose excellence of execution as their top challenge for the second year in a row. http://www.conference-board.org
So why is execution so difficult? Many excellent book have been written on the subject. My favorite is Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Here is another perspective with 3 simple dimensions to think of namely, people, process, and technology. In this first part I’ll cover the people aspect of Why Execution is so hard.
Why Execution is so hard - The People Dimension (part 1 of 3)
In many corporate environments today apathy has set in. Commonplace layoffs and compensation practices haven’t helped to build great company cultures. Where are the $1 dollar a year CEOs? The difference in pay between the top and the bottom of organization is wider than ever. When employees are already “at capacity” due to previous cuts and have absorbed the jobs of those who were let go, then those that remain grow weary of what’s next. Making matter worse, when executives remove themselves from the operational reality then a semi-silent attitude persists around watercoolers and in instant messages, “let mahogany row do it” “They decided on x and then let Mary, Rob, and Bill go, so let them do it themselves”. Warning to leadership everywhere - If you cut deeply and don’t temper your ambitions your staff will temper it for you during the execution phase of your great strategy.
Lack of entrepreneurial thinking
In times of scarcity, entrepreneurial thinking reigns supreme. Entrepreneurs are accustomed to handing tasks beneath and above them and becoming very resourceful. But, yet again, most corporate leaders are not entrepreneurial so the likelihood that they have been developing their people in this vein is unlikely.
Butt toward customer
When organizations are not rooted in customer reality, understanding who ultimately creates demand for their products, then organizational bias’ can creep in and cause each department to imagine who the customers are. Along with this comes the finger pointing and blame game when things don’t go well. Unfortunately, this lack of alignment gives birth to micro strategies as each department crafts their own, sometimes silently. As said in Funky Business, when you have your focus inside the organization you have your butt toward the customer. That is not a great experience for your customers.
Lack of intellectual honesty and authentic dialogue
A company culture that lacks execution probably is absent of intellectually honesty and authentic dialogue. Execution gaps are ignored, corners are cut, and alarming messages are filtered. Pressures within companies to conform work the same whether the culture is one that executes well or one that executes poorly. Homogeneous lemming-like thinking sets in. Rock stars are disillusioned and squelched. Like the Rush song, Subdivisions says,” conform or be cast out.”
Unpopular deeper thinking and healthy discourse are sometimes exactly the bitter pill a company must swallow to make it through challenging times and emerge a more healthy vibrant force. If you are a company leader, ask yourself what pill are you taking and more importantly what are your prescribing.