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The “Unspoken” Cause of Failure

June 7, 2010

This post is the first in a series of Monday book summaries.

I’ve been fortunate to read a lot of great books in my life. Every Monday I will be putting out summaries, takeaways, and critiques of today’s top business books.

Last Tuesday I promised this on Twitter… “I’m not going to finish another book until a review one online for you all. Read too much shared too little.” 8:29 PM June 1st via Echofon

Now it’s time to execute, which ironically is the title of the amazing business book by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.

To be honest I first read this book in college and didn’t get much out of it. It wasn’t until a year later when I got my first “real job” when I began to re-read and appreciate the importance of this book.

Below are my key takeaways from Execution.

“Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes.”

What is Execution?

Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing “how’s and what’s” in your organization.

Execution is not only about questioning, but more importantly ensuring  accountability and tenaciously following through.

In the most basic form execution means exposing reality and acting on it.

This wasn’t a principle I learned in business school. But during my years of consulting experience I found out that most companies don’t face reality very well. It turns out this is one of the major reasons teams fail to execute.

Although this may sound like common sense (most business principles are) when people, politics, and organizational culture aren’t aligned, businesses can rarely solve problems they are faced with.

How can you execute when you don’t  know what is truly happening within your organization and marketplace?

That’s where leadership comes in…

Leading for execution is not rocket science.

The main requirement is that you as a leader have to be deeply and passionately engaged in your organization adn be honest about its realities with others and yourself.

Leaders should bring weaknesses to light and rally their people to correct them.

Execution is not a program of the month. A leader who says, “Okay, now we’re going to execute for a change” is merely launching another fad of the month, with no staying power. As my former sales trainer and good friend John Hall says, “Talk is cheap.”

Two ways you can check for Execution in your company

#1 Pay attention to what the Dialogue looks like in your organization.

Dialogue is the core of culture and the basic unit of work. How people talk to each other absolutely determines how well the organization will function.

Is the dialogue stilted, politicized, fragmented, and butt-covering, or is it candid and reality-based?

If it’s the former (as it is with many companies) reality will never come to the surface. If it is to be the latter, the leader must be on the playing field with the rest of the team, practicing it consistently.

#2 Check employee engagement in meetings.

Do people sit passively watching PowerPoint presentations? Do they ask questions, and is there a true debate?

People engaged in meetings ask “execution-style” questions, search out reality, and reach specific and practical conclusions. Accountability is also discussed openly and agreed upon by those responsible.

Perspectives should be heard, even if they disagree or are temporarily uncomfortable to hear. You need input from team members and this will help them take ownership of the project’s success.

Although I love John Hall’s advice, I’d like to amend it just a bit for this article.

“Talk is cheap, but dialogue is priceless”.

Do you see execution problems in your teams? What do you think of the summary?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2010 11:51 am

    Good review, Croke. Love the “Talk is cheap, dialogue is priceless” quote! Looking forward to more, please hold off reviewing “Outliers” as I’m almost done reading it or at least put a spoiler-alert heading on it.

    However, we need to sit-down and talk about something – it might be awkward for you as it can be a “taboo” subject sometimes… but, we need to talk about your typography. I can’t sit by and watch another one of my “tech-savant” friends abuse: letters, their weights, and their layout.

    At the same time, please don’t feel bad or personally responsible as I’m sure: proper use of and when and when-not to bold things isn’t touched on that much throughout your entrepreneurial reads.

  2. June 22, 2010 12:19 pm

    Execution is so crucial!

    “Tenaciously following through” – so huge! Consistency is king! There are way too many people that start something and never finish it or that are constantly bouncing around to the next “thing”. Make a commitment and execute! Drives me nuts!

    A lot of people need to hear this message.
    Great post Brandon!

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