Effective Execution – a critical skill

executionThe ability to execute effectively is key to the success of an organization as well as an individual. Designing the best strategy in the world is useless if the organization does not possess the ability to effectively execute it.

There is consensus on the fact that typically most organizations only manage to execute about 10-15% of their strategy. If those figures are even remotely accurate just imagine the opportunities lost in terms of profits, revenues, and market share. The above fact is a clear message to leaders to wake up, take serious note of the matter and realize that there is a huge opportunity waiting to be en-cashed.

So what do organizations truly need ? They need EXECUTIONISTS – the person that makes difficult things a reality. A magic doer of difficult tasks and deeds, who can take ownership of your strategy and ensure that it is DONE and delivered in terms of results.

Its not as though management is not aware of the fact. According to an article in HBR, “4 Ways to Be More Effective at Execution”, when senior managers were asked to indicate the importance of this ability, they ranked it first on a list of 16 skills. Other raters in the organization ranked it fourth, behind inspiring and motivating, having integrity and honesty, and problem solving. So whats missing ?

We all know that the different roles defined in our jobs are important, but are we really aware of the fact that if we want to move ahead in our career what is required ? The answer is really very simple and the one thing that all bosses want to see – that is, just get down to it and get more work done, show results, that’s what the boss wants.

Many people may identify that execution is an important skill to have and that it contributes directly to their performance but what they may not realize is the fact that it is also a direct contributor to their growth. Another very important thing to realize is that it is possible to improve one’s level of execution without putting in extra hours.

After looking at and analyzing the skills of leaders who were rated as effective executionists some clear behaviours were identified – infact the four behaviours which really stood out are :

·         Being organized and methodical

People have the tendency to jump into activities and start taking action. However its important to organize people first, assemble the required resources and then generate a plan that others can commit to and follow to keep track of things and improve execution. Its also important to clearly assign roles and assign responsibilities in order to obtain results.

·         Set stretch goals and deadlines

Goal setting is key to achieving results and setting stretch goals helps a team to achieve their objectives while it also generates a greater sense of engagement and satisfaction. With stretch goals, in order to pressurize a team to achieve their goals, pairing them with deadlines is very effective.

We may not like it, when our boss gives us a deadline but there is no doubt that our behavior changes. Since we clearly know by when a certain task has to be completed we have a pressure put on ourselves to achieve it. But at the same time be careful, as too much pushing can have a negative impact and erode the bond between a leader and team, resulting in a loss of execution in the long run. Moreover, if you set your timelines involving your team in the process this will increase their sense of commitment and autonomy.

·         Ongoing motivation and feedback

Intrinsic motivation can increase by giving feedback to team members. Leaders who motivate people at work by ensuring they have autonomy and are given work at which they are competent are indirectly helping them to achieve their goals.

Further leaders who are skilled at giving feedback have proved to be great at execution. Specifically, those leaders who can give critical feedback, in a positive manner, by taking the time to listen to and understand their employees’ point of view.

·         Resolve conflict and build team culture

To obtain results its necessary to build a high-performance team and perhaps the biggest single thing for leaders to focus on is resolving conflict. Many of the issues which may arise and problems which need to be resolved within a team come from differences and conflict between team members. In high-performing teams, the members trust each other and conflict is constructive, not destructive or personal.

In such teams the work assignments are clearly defined and distributed, processes also clear, the deadlines fixed by mutual consent are ambitious but fair, and feedback and motivation from the leader is ongoing and abundant. Further such teams do one thing more – the expectations of peer team members are powerful motivators, too. Creating this kind of team culture is an important element of good execution.

If you analyze your ability to execute, you will definitely feel that all the above dimensions are critical to successful execution. Some of the above things – setting stretch goals, having clear processes in place, and building trust, for example – will help you move faster. At the same time you may need to give feedback to your team by, being transparent about number and status of projects you’re working on and where they are in your pipeline.

SO………..follow the above steps and improve your level of execution to greater success


2 thoughts on “Effective Execution – a critical skill

  1. A worthy article on a critical area of project management indeed. Execution has its own dynamics to follow depending on the environmental factors. Ultimately one requires commitment from top management to ensure successful execution of the project.


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