It’s the time of year when resolutions and plans, hopes and dreams, are pasted on our mirrors, stuck on our walls, or presented in PPT strategy sessions. As an organizational leader and an individual the problem I have with resolutions is not the planning—it’s the execution!
Recently I was at an event where the speaker had written “flawless execution” alongside the diagram of his talk. Wow, that got my attention. Can you believe the first thing he said was he wasn’t going to do the talk he had planned. He spent the next twenty minutes of his sixty-minute time slot talking about himself! His info, when he got to it, was good. But we lost one-third of his time! His problem wasn’t his planning—it was his execution!
Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy in their book Execution say, “Execution . . . is a discipline of its own.” Here are four ideas that can help you and your team practice the discipline of execution in a way that makes sense, gets the job done, and doesn’t make us feel like failures.
I have a friend who was a naval navigator. He once told me, “Navigating is easy. As long as you know where you are leaving from and where you are going to everything in between is fluid.” Fluid planning has the why, the reason for our plan, as its starting point. Its ending point is what we want to accomplish. If our why is strong and our what is appropriate everything that lies between is the fluid plan.
One of the major breakthrough events in my life was when I accepted the idea that consistency is not king. And that’s not an easy idea to accept. We’ve all been told the fable of the tortoise and the hare—right? But life doesn’t come at us consistently. Life comes in waves, in fits and starts. Inconsistent action gives us permission to let our energies and focus meet the demands of life while returning us again and again to the action necessary to achieve results. Inconsistent action reduces the guilt that paralyzes us and which can eventually so demotivate us that we quit.
Reality is hurtful because it’s the force we’re always having to adjust to. Reality refuses to leave us alone. It interferes with our plans (which are obviously great because we made them). The hurt of reality, however, is primarily felt in relation to our unwillingness to accept its presence. The more we resist reality the more pain it applies. Instead of viewing reality as the enemy accept reality as a constructive guide. Reality rewards us when we work with it and redirects us when we get out of sync.
A plan is an act of courage in and of itself. But, as soon as we make a plan public, from the moment we take the first step, fear climbs onto the seat beside us. Fearful courage accepts the fact that fear and courage are companions. So when you feel the fear creeping up on you look around to see where courage is. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it.
Flawless execution is probably the mythic unicorn of strategic planning. I pray these four ideas encourage you to keep on executing your plans for the good results you want to accomplish.
Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work. —Peter Drucker