“Innovation” seems to be a current buzzword in business. It’s true that organizations in competitive, global markets must constantly pursue “the next great idea” to relentlessly improve their processes and capitalize on opportunities. In fact many organizations are very good at developing visions, strategic plans and action plans to do just that. Where they fall down is in executing on their plans. Ram Charan, renowned business consultant and author, states in his book, ”Execution”, that 70% of strategic business failures are due to poor execution. And, according to the Franklin-Covey Institute, people cannot execute on important strategic goals because they are caught in the whirlwind of the day-to-day tasks that are required to just keep the company afloat.
Stephen Covey, always brilliant in his ability to distill a few key lessons from mounds of information, came up with four disciplines of execution:
- Focus on the wildly important
- Act on the lead measures
- Keep a compelling scoreboard
- Create a cadence of accountability
Focus on the wildly important
Covey cautions that we have a tendency to try to do too much. We have so many great ideas, and we want to do them all. This, amidst the “whirlwind” of daily work, is a recipe for failure. The team or organization must focus on one or two of what he calls “Wildly Important Goals” or WIGs. It is a measureable goal that, if achieved, will make all the difference to the organization. It must also be one that has a defined finish line (going from “X” to “Y” by “when”). It’s even better if you can identify a series of sub-goals leading to the goal, each with its own deadline. Remember that this WIG is a goal that will drive actions that are in addition to people’s daily activities, so it is important that it be realistic.
Act on the lead measures
Lead measures are actions that are your “best bets” that will lead to the goal. They are things that people have control over and, if people do them, there is a very good chance the goal will be achieved. For example if the goal is to “increase annual regional sales from $10 M to $12 M by year end”, a lead measure might be to make 10 more cold calls per week. This lead measure is something:
- That leads to the goal
- That people can influence
- Is behavioural, action-oriented
- Is a ‘best bet’
- Is measureable
An important aspect of lead measures is to schedule time to do them regularly during your work day. Block off the time and don’t let it slip away.
Keep a compelling score board
If people cannot tell they are winning through their efforts, motivation will drop and the initiative will be eaten by the whirlwind. People need a simple scoreboard that is highly visible and tells them at a glance if they, and the team, are where they should be at this moment. It should tell them if their efforts are effective. If so, they know to keep doing them. If not, they know they need to change them.
Create a cadence of accountability
This fourth principle refers to methods to hold people accountable for keeping their commitments to the goal … their lead measures. This is effective when it is done on a regular basis at very short (10-20 minutes) weekly “stand up” meetings. People must come prepared and do 3 things:
- Report on their commitments from last week
- Review/update the scoreboard
- Make commitments for next week