Execution is one of the Four Decisions that can release the limits on the speed and scale of your company’s growth. (The other growth-related decisions are Strategy, People, and Cash.) While you might think that a killer strategy will guarantee your company a trip to the top of the 500 list, strategy alone won’t get you there. Even the best laid plan fails without solid execution.
Execution is often the place where you’ve been when you’re at the end of your work day and wonder where the time went. Execution symptoms appear, in day-to-day dramas that can create conflict among employees, dissatisfaction for customers, and crises for you to resolve. Moreover, if you’ve got execution issues in your company it’s likely that you also have a business hurting for cash instead of a well-oiled cash generating machine.
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Where some businesses start to improve execution
Leaders looking for the source of execution problems sometimes begin by trying to identify problem people, counsel them for better compliance or to boost their motivation. Unfortunately, efforts to give employees a kick in the pants are wasted, because even the best team members can be beaten by bad work processes – or the lack of processes altogether. And leaders’ overreliance on discipline to improve productivity can erode the culture of the business. It leads to a negative impact on execution, especially when your best talent is being wooed to work elsewhere.
The importance of process
The major functions in your business consist of a series of processes – consistent and repeatable steps that culminate in desired results. Complications in execution occur when processes are the result of “cow paths” created over time, and include errors, delays, non-value-added steps, and unnecessary distances. Problems can occur within steps, or at the points of hand-off between individuals involved in them.
If your key processes are too slow, have too many errors, or are costing you too much in waste, it’s well worth your time to improve them. You might be able to make incremental improvements. Or you could look at a key process in its entirety and reinvent it. (One of our clients was able to remove 80% of the time they invested in a service process. Yes 80%, without rushing anything or skipping steps.)
Communication- the rhythm of your business
Simply put, the more quickly you communicate, the faster your business can pulse. In execution, the foremost communication tool is the daily huddle. During a quick, standing, 10-minute conversation, team members share wins, priorities, and sticking points. Peers give attaboys and attagirls to one another for solid performance. The group is focused. And any problems are identified closest to their sources, for prompt handling outside of the huddle.
Many companies find that first thing in the morning is the best time for a huddle because it sets the tone for the day. But if scheduling of staff or some other reason means your best huddle is at 11:10 a.m., do it then. Do it on Zoom or Skype if your workforce is remote. Do it on the phone if they are on the road. The important thing is to do it because it’s the best way for you to know what is really happening in the guts of your business.
Not every problem is solvable in a 10-minute huddle. You might need an hour or two to do continuous improvement in a weekly meeting in your department. Your leadership team might be well served to get together for a half day each month to maintain the connection and alignment between your longer-term strategy and your daily and weekly execution.
Measure, measure, measure
What constitutes good performance? You need to be able to measure it, and your team members need to be able to see how they are doing against the company’s goals. When you are intent on growing and have established targets to support it, it can be effective to establish a Mission Control in your facility. Mission Control can be a white board, or even a wall in your designated meeting room. Display graphs, scoreboards, etc. to make the Key Performance Indicator information easy and quick to digest.
Remember to Celebrate
In the world of execution, every quarter is a 13-week race. Especially when the company’s growth goals are aggressive, the quarter creates manageable bites. Set a theme for the quarter to make things exciting and memorable. And incorporate prizes, games, gimmicks, even costumes for your theme of the quarter. You invest a lot of your life at work, and same goes for your team members. Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. Build the fun into work, and you’ll find your team outperforming your prior expectations.