A Culture of Execution

The day started doing management training with a great group of guys for a key client.  We're discussing the importance of "execution" while utilizing Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan as a resource.  I read the book when it was first published, and find it a good one to revisit every few years.  Employed Dunking Donuts and gift certs for motivators as we had crazy early start time.  Highly recommend both the book and Dunkin Donuts and receive no comp for either recommendation.

It is easy to appreciate the simple and practical concepts presented by the authors that can be applied to everyday life as a leader and manager.  For example:

-  Execution is the missing link between desired results and current reality

-  There are three key points to remember about execution: 1) It is a discipline  2) It is the major job of a leader  3) It needs to be part of the corporate culture

-  Fundamentally, execution is the discipline of systematically exposing reality and acting on it

Clearly it's critical to make decisions based on reality, because otherwise we might make costly and potentially destructive decisions based on something other than what's real.  But, how does a leader create a culture of execution (exposing reality and acting on it)?  A culture where everyone is working together in facing the very real and often mountainous challenges with creative and innovative solutions.  A culture of trust where employees aren't afraid to make their bosses aware of mistakes made by the employee or a need for resources.

Well, it is easier said than done.  Dealing with reality as a leader requires much patience, discernment, sound judgment and self-control.  Reality is often tough to hear about and deal with, particularly if it's brought by a direct report who is having a bad attitude about it.  At times, it can be extremely tempting to react with anger, impatience, and unkind words.  And, on the other hand, ignorance of reality can at times lend toward short-term peace and tranquility.  Life can be good for awhile when ignorant of what's really going on!  "Let them deal with reality!  I just want to see results!"  Or, we can choose to ignore it hoping that the real situation somehow changes quickly and magically without us having to get involved.  None of these options are viable for an effective leader/manager.

The effective way, the way that will encourage a culture of exposing reality and acting on it, is to respond to the employee (rather than react) with patient inquiry, and an attitude to serve them in forming a creative solution.  A response from the leader that makes the employee feel more like a partner in the mission and vision of the organization than a subordinate who just ruined the leader's day.  A response that is respectful and grateful, not angry and impatient.  A response like this will lend toward a culture of freedom of exposing and dealing with reality -- a culture of execution.

Effective leaders understand that they need to be personally and deeply involved in facing reality, and they are systematic in exposing it.  They understand that execution is essential in closing the gap between desired results and current reality.  And they consider the discipline of execution as being their major job as the leader.  

Patrick Ennis

Ennis Consulting & Conciliation, Montgomery Village, MD

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