EXECUTION: THE DISCIPLINE OF GETTING THINGS DONE
The book that shows how to get the job done and deliver results . . . whether you’re running an entire company or in your first management job. Execution is a discipline and integral to strategy.
Execution is the major job of the business leader.
Execution must be a core element of an organisation’s culture.
Much has been written about Jack Welch’s style of management—specially his toughness and bluntness, which some people call ruthlessness. He forced realism into all of GE’s management processes, making it a model of execution culture.
In July 2001 Larry Bossidy was asked by the board of directors of Honeywell International (it had merged with AlliedSignal) to return and get the company back on track. He’s been putting the ideas he writes about in Execution to work in real time.
Typically the CEO and his senior management team allot less than half a day each year to review the plans—people, strategy and operations. Typically too the reviews are not particularly interactive. People sit passively watching PowerPoint presentations. They don’t ask questions.They don’t debate, and as a result they don’t get much useful outcome. People leave with no commitments to the action plans they have helped create. This is a formula for failure.
Only a leader can ask tough questions that everyone needs to answer. Dialogue is the core of culture and basic unit of work. How people talk to each other will determine how well organisation will function.
Is the dialogue stilted, politicised, fragmented and butt-covering?Far too many leaders avoid debating about people openly in group settings. That’s no way to lead.
Micromanaging is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self confidence, saps their initiative and stifles their ability to think for themselves.
But there is enormous difference between leading an organisation and presiding over it. The leader who executes often does not even have to tell people what to do; she asks questions so they can figure out what they need to do. In this way she coaches them, passing on her experience as a leader and educating them to think in ways they never thought before.
All leaders like Jack, Sam and Herb are good communicators but communication can be more boilerplate, or it can mean something.
All these leaders practice ‘management by walking around’. They are passionate about getting results. These leaders energise by the example they set.
Even at the end of his career, Jack was not presiding. He was leading by being actively involved.
Execution has to be embedded in the reward systems and in the norms of behaviour that everyone practices. One way get a handle on execution is to think of it as akin to the six sigma processes for continual improvement. People practicing this methodologies look for deviations from desired tolerances.
Like six sigma, the discipline of execution doesn’t work unless people are schooled in it and practice it constantly. It does not work if only a few people in the system practice it.
The real problem is that execution just doesn’t sound very sexy. It’s the stuff a leader delegates.
Nobel Prize winners succeed because they execute the details of a proof that other people can replicate, verify, or do something with. They test and discover patterns, connections and linkages that nobody saw before.
“Unless I make this plan happen, it’s not going to matter. “ But the selection, training and development of leaders doesn’t focus on this reality.Leaders are articulate conceptualisers, very good at grasping strategies and explaining them. They are not interested in “how” of getting things done; that’s for somebody else to think about.
Many don’t realise what needs to be done to convert a vision into specific tasks, because their high-level thinking is too broad. They don’t follow through and get things done; the details bore them. They don’t crystallise thoughts or anticipate roadblocks.Leader’s communications are just not down to earth messages but a tool for changing attitudes. They made the company goals, issues and new leadership style clear to the employees. The talk is straightforward, even blunt, designed to elicit truth and coach people in the behaviour Leader expects his managers. “Intense candour”, Dick Brown, CEO of EDS calls it, “a balance of optimism and motivation with realism.
THE LEADER’S SEVEN ESSENTIAL BEHAVIOURS.What exactly does a leader who’s in charge of execution do? How does he keep from being a micromanager, caught up in the details of running the business?
1. Know your people and your business.
2. Insist on realism.
3. Set clear goals and priorities.
4. Follow through.
5. Reward the doers.
6. Expand people’s capabilities.
7. Know yourself.
When going to meet people, prepare well. Learn about stars and set up time with them. Acknowledge their good work and Leave them with a couple of thoughts she didn’t have.Larry asked why his quality staff reported to manufacturing. “That’s like putting the fox in charge of guarding the chicken coop.” He wanted quality to analyse manufacturing.
INSIST ON REALISM
Realism is the heart of execution, but many organisations are full of people who are trying avoiding or shading reality. Why? It makes life uncomfortable. People don’t want to open Pandora’s Box. They want to hide mistakes, or buy time to figure out a solution rather than admit they don’t have an answer at the moment. They want to avoid confrontations. Nobody wants to be the messenger who gets shot or the troublemaker, who challenges the authority of her superiors. Sometimes the leaders are simply in denial.
Was it realistic for AT&T to acquire a bunch of cable businesses it didn’t know how to run? The record shows it wasn’t. Was it realistic for Richard Thoman to simultaneously launch two sweeping initiatives at Xerox without being able to install the critical leaders? Clearly not.
How do you make realism a priority? You start by being realistic yourself. Then you make sure realism is the goal of all dialogues in the organisation.SET CLEAR GOALS AND PRIORITIES
A leader who says, “I have got tem priorities” does not know what he is talking about—he doesn’t know himself what the most important things are. Set clear and simple goals.
Clear and simple goals mean nothing if nobody takes them seriously. The failure to follow through is widespread in business, and a major cause of poor execution.
REWARD THE DOERS
If you want people to produce specific results, you reward them accordingly.
EXPAND PEOPLE’S CAPABILITIES THRPUGH COACHINGThe most effective way to coach is to observe a person in action and then provide specific useful feedback.
The skill of the coach is the art of questioning. Asking incisive questions forces people to think, to discover, to search.GOOD LEADERS:
•Energize people: Some leaders create energy in their people. Others drain it. Day-to-day energy focused on immediate goals. That’s what gets things done.
•Are deeply involved in all aspects of their area … curious … tireless … never finish a conversation without summarizing the actions to be taken.
•Are decisive on tough issues: “Some leaders simply do not have the emotional fortitude to confront the tough ones. When they don’t, everybody in the business knows they are wavering, procrastinating, and avoiding reality.” (See Good to Great.)
•Get things done through others: Workaholics who micromanage can’t cut it in the long run. Neither can hands-off and big-picture-only folks.
•Follow-through: Ensure that people do what they committed to per time-table. Synchronize through specificity. When circumstances de-rail the train, move quickly to lay alternative tracks.
NEVER FINISH A MEETING WITHOUT:◦What’s to be done
◦When and how
◦With what resources
◦When, how, and with whom to be reviewed.
•Never launch an initiative without personal commitment to follow through until it is simply part of “how we do things.”
HOW TO GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT JOBS:
•Does she naturally focus on the people who were assigned to her and how they contributed to the result?
•Does her career history, from school on, give evidence or energy, enthusiasm, and a delight in accomplishments? (You can know this when you do CIDS interviewing)
•Does she tend to wander into strategy and theory repeatedly?
•Did he meet commitments in ways that strengthened or weakened the people involved and the organization as a whole?
•VERIFY. PERSONALLY. WITH REFERENCES YOU KNOW.
“Nowhere is candid dialogue more important than in the people process. If people can't speak forthrightly when evaluating others, then the evaluation is worthless – to the organization and to the person who needs the feedback?”
KNOW YOURSELFEveryone pays lip service to the idea that leading an organisation requires strength of character. In execution it’s absolutely critical. You need ‘emotional fortitude’ to be honest in thought, action and belief.
Psychologists know that some people are limited, even crippled, by emotional blockages that prevent them from doing things that leadership requires. Such blockages may lead them to avoid unpleasant situations by ducking conflicts, procrastinations on decisions, or delegating with no follow –through.
Emotional Fortitude comes from self-discovery and self-mastery.
Leaders know intuitively that they have a problem and will often acknowledge it as well but alarmingly majority of them do not do anything to fix the problem.
At Baxter International, for example, HR is central both to a rigorous process of assessing, developing, and promoting people and to the company’s strategic planning. They established teams to flesh out the details of exactly what was needed, what capabilities they had and what they needed to do to fill the gap.THE SOCIAL SOFTWARE OF EXECUTION
•Design of rewards
•Compensation and sanctions
•Financial reports and their flow
•Hierarchical distribution of power
◦Assignment of tasks
◦Budget level approvals
•Norms of behaviour
•Everything else that isn’t hardware
YOU CAN ALSO READ THIS…LARRY’S LEGACY CONTINUES AT HONEYWELL.
CEO of the Year 2013
David M. Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell
"David took on an enormous challenge and just hit it out of the park, creating one Honeywell. He's often said the trick is in the doing and David has done it, both internally at the company and externally in the strong statesman role he's playing to help our country."- Jim Turley, Chairman and CEO, Ernst and Young and 2013 CEO of the Year selection committee member
Chief Executive Magazine’s “CEO of the Year,” award recognizes an outstanding corporate leader nominated and selected by peers. Under Dave’s leadership for more than a decade, Honeywell has:
• Increased sales by 71% to $37.7 billion• Increased EPS* by 197% to $4.48
• Delivered a total shareowner return of 240%, consistently outperforming the S&P 500
• Transformed Honeywell into a global company, with 54% of sales coming from outside the U.S. Versus 41% 10 years ago
• Oversaw more than 75 acquisitions and 50 divestitures
(Nominations for CEO of the Year were garnered from Chief Executive Magazine’s 124,000 readers. The ten most frequently cited nominations were evaluated and a winner was voted upon by a peer Selection Committee consisting of CEOs from leading global corporations. )
The Leadership Behaviours of “One Hon”To fix Honeywell’s fragmented culture, David Cote identified 12 key behaviours that ultimately became the basis of the Honeywell Operating System—more colloquially known as One Hon:
1. Growth and Customer Focus2. Leadership Impact
3. Gets Results
4. Makes People Better
5. Champions Change
6. Fosters Teamwork and Diversity
7. Global Mindset
8. Intelligent Risk Taking
10. Effective Communicator
11. Integrative Thinker
12. Technical or Functional Excellence