Execution is the lifeblood of your business.
The whole reason you’re in business is because you decided to do or create something that customers find valuable. But just doing isn’t enough to keep the dream alive. Effective execution makes the difference between your blue sky outcome and watching your vision crashland with a cloud of missed opportunities.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, once said, “I’d rather have a first-rate execution and second-rate strategy, anytime, than a brilliant idea and mediocre management.” Jamie knew something that evades most leadership: the cost of missed commitments and poor execution is much more severe than an imperfect strategy. According to a study by Marakon Associates, which surveyed senior executives from 197 companies worldwide, “breakdowns in execution” are responsible for the loss of as much as 40% of any strategy’s potential value. Missed commitments are the building blocks of poor execution. With each missed mark–no matter how insignificant–issues of customer satisfaction, productivity, profits, and reputation quickly snowball.
So how do you tap into that dream-sustaining lifeblood and avoid missed commitments and the pitfalls of poor execution? These three tactics:
Often talked about as the result of having a strong culture, engagement is actually one of the key ingredients in building an awesome, ‘get stuff done’ culture. But fostering engagement has more direct benefits than a kickass culture. Organizations that motivate their people to *want* to work, rather than *having* to work see their efforts pay dividends: Workplaces with engaged employees outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%!
So how can you reap the rewards of this trending business topic starting today?
Engagement is about involvement in the decision making process. It’s about the employees who are going to be responsible for executing, having a meaningful say in what they’re executing on. This can take many forms, from something as formal as Employee Advisory Councils to something as informal as taking one of your team members for a coffee, just so you can bounce ideas off each other.
The specific action is less important than the intention–it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it. Find a unique way to express your sincere value of your employee’s input and creating an ongoing, open dialogue about decisions that directly impact them.
In the early days working at 1-800-Got-Junk?, we had WDWBW this emblazoned on the back of each meeting room door. It stands for “Who Does What By When.” This set a clear expectation that if you were walking out of a meeting with no answer to this question, you had either wasted your time and not agreed to taking any action, or the action you had agreed to wasn’t going to get done because no one was owning it.
The negative impact of uncertainty-beyond its obvious derailment of productivity–is that it is hugely detrimental to people’s wellbeing and the health of your organizational culture. According to Psychology Today, a lack of certainty triggers a threat response in the brain; it makes us less trusting of the setting and of our safety. Patterns of ambiguity can breed not only inaction, but general contempt over short periods of time.
In contrast, when you set the uncompromised, public expectation that each commitment requires an owner, the chances of it actually getting done increase substantially. Start doing this with your team and you’ll start to see a huge shift; people will not only get more done, they’ll be happier doing it.
This is the fun one!
While engagement and accountability are hot topics among leadership gurus, an often-ignored leg of the execution pyramid is recognition. According to a 2016 Gallup study, 1 in 3 workers feel they received recognition or praise for doing good work in a given week. When employees feel that their best efforts are routinely ignored, they’re 2x as likely to report that they plan to leave their company within the year.
Celebrating a win doesn’t always have to mean celebrating a goal. Sometimes it can just be getting something done. It’s not about incentives–I’ve written a whole post on that previously.
The long and the short of recognition is that people will continue the behaviour you reinforce. So reinforce the good behaviour of delivering on commitments by recognising people for their efforts. It’s enjoyable for everyone involved and it makes a measurable impact.
Improve your execution today
Being willing to fail is an important part of building a successful organization. But you should never fail because you executed poorly. With the right building blocks and effective tactics, you can start executing at a high level today. You’ll find out pretty quickly whether your idea will take flight, or if it’s doomed to crash and burn..