“Which is easier, strategy (planning) or execution?” Ask any chief executive that question, and he or she will always answer, “Execution!” Putting together a good strategic plan has its own challenges, but the real trick is making that plan happen. And the reason for that is simple: executing a strategic plan is important but not urgent . . . it’s a long-term activity that unfolds over the course of months or even years. Our days tend to get eaten up by urgent matters such as dealing with customer issues, making deadlines, solving operational problems, etc. So if we don’t get around to working on the plan today, we can always put it off until tomorrow or the next day. In short, the urgent will always trump the important. For some thoughts on how you get around this dilemma and execute on your plans, please continue reading below.
“Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination.” ~ Mark Hurd
In a YouTube video, Chris McChesney, a representative of the FranklinCovey organization, discusses the “Four Disciplines of Execution.”
- Set SMART goals . . . goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-based. Vague goals that don’t include measurements or deadlines are doomed from the start. And don’t assign too many goals. According to McChesney, if you set two or three goals, you will achieve two or three of them. If you set four to ten goals, you will achieve one or two of them. If you set more than 10, it’s unlikely you will achieve any of them. It’s the Law of Diminishing Returns. When people are struggling to carry out their regular daily responsibilities and work on long-term goals, setting too many goals only discourages them.
- Provide interim measurements so that everyone involved in achieving a particular goal always knows where they are with respect to the goal . . . ahead, behind, or on schedule. We need to pace ourselves in order to deliver the results we want on time, but we can only do that if we have some sort of interim measurement to guide us.
- Keep a scoreboard. While achieving important company goals is serious stuff, there’s no reason we can’t introduce some elements of a game by posting our progress on a scoreboard. McChesney recommends that a scoreboard include several elements, especially:
- You should be able to tell at a glance how you’re doing.
- Make it large enough and post it in a convenient location so people involved in a goal can see their “score” easily and often.
- Hold regular accountability sessions. Discipline yourself to hold them on a regularly scheduled basis . . . daily, weekly, or monthly, whatever you think is appropriate. These sessions should be a time for people to discuss any challenges they may be facing with respect to their goals and remedial actions they are taking if they are behind on their goals.
Ideally, execution of a plan should trickle down to everyone in the organization. Once the overall company goals have been set, each department should set its own goals to support the company goals, then teams within a department should set goals to support the departmental goals, and finally, each member of a team should have individual goals to support the team goals. In this way, planning and execution become a part of the corporate conversation and part of the company culture.
The whole idea is to set a limited number of high-impact goals, provide tools for tracking our progress toward those goals, and then to keep execution of those goals highly visible with scoreboards, accountability sessions, and companywide participation. And with high visibility, the important (executing our plans) is less likely to get pushed aside by the urgent.
If you would like to see Chris McChesney’s presentation, please paste the link below into your browser