Most of the leaders I know would tell you that the world in which they operate is vastly more complex than it was just a few years ago. With this complexity, comes a growing challenge to execute well. At the same time, competition continues to improve thus making execution even more important than ever before. As a consequence, our future success largely hinges on our ability to execute. Today’s Challenge: How do we help our team pursue flawless execution?
So, what can a leader do? Here are a few thoughts to stimulate your thinking.
Set the expectation – Operating and brand standards are critically important. Be sure your team knows that. When I visit a Starbucks anywhere in the world, the drinks are made to the same standards. The Baristas don’t make up their own recipes – they make drinks the Starbucks way. This is not because they’re not creative – it’s because leadership has set an expectation regarding consistent execution.
Explain the why – Your team needs to understand why the execution matters. You can create your own list of reasons. I’m guessing it will include: brand consistency, customer expectations and cost containment. Or, you can say it the way Don Soderquist, the former vice chairman of Walmart did, “If you fail at the point of execution, you fail.”
Train the team – One of the great frustrations in many teams is the presence of a clear expectation without the knowledge and skills to deliver on the expectations. Telling someone what’s expected is not the same as training them on how to make it a reality. If you aren’t seeing the level of execution you desire, one question to ask: “Have these people been adequately trained?”
Show them you care – People ultimately care about what their leaders care about. If you pay attention to the details of execution, your team will follow your lead. If they do not, you’ve probably got other issues.
Measure your execution – On-going measurement helps execution in at least four ways:
1. Measurement allows you to monitor your performance.
2. It signals you when action is required.
3. It keeps the focus on execution – as long as you use the metrics to drive conversation and action on a regular basis.
4. Measurement gives you an opportunity to celebrate successes. The things you celebrate will, over time, become the cultural norms of your organization.
Eliminate the root cause – Work diligently to uncover the root of the problems you face. Your action plans should address the cause not the symptoms. This will, in most cases, require more time and energy, but it will be worth it in the end. You really shouldn’t have to solve the same problems over and over again.
Attack problems not people – When faced with a lapse in execution, look for the breakdown in the process and systems first. Don’t start with “who” failed, begin with “How did the process fail?”
Do it all over again – Repetition is the mother of consistency. If you want a consistent focus on execution, you can never stop focusing on execution. The process of identifying problems, solving them and monitoring your performance must be ongoing. If you fail to focus on execution, you will fail at execution.
Flawless execution is a mindset and a journey – it is not a destination. Enjoy the journey![GLS_Shield]