Saturday, April 26, 2008

Book review : Execution - The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
by Larry Bossidy (Author), Ram Charan (Author), Charles Burck (Author)

Leader should be engaged in the business and candid about reality.
Leader’s key role is with the people process that produces leadership and accountability.
Start with a roadmap and focus on execution.
There is a gap between desired goals and performance.
You need concrete steps for achievement of goals.
Execution approach: differentiate by being able to execute more effectively than competitors.

1. A discipline central to strategy (not tactics)
Vigorous discussion of what and how.
Follow through and accountability.
Consider whether you have the capability to execute the strategy. What are the capabilities of the organization?
Include consideration of the business environment. The process must have mechanisms to change assumptions about the business environment as it changes.
Link strategies to operations and people.
Synchronize people responsibility to implementation and their disciplines.
Link rewards to outcomes.
Upgrade capabilities.

2. Core responsibility of the business leader
3. Must be a core element of the culture of the business.
Expose reality (with robust debate) and act on it (with commitment and accountability).

3 Core Processes:
1. People Process – Who will do it and how will they be judged and held accountable? How do we hire and prepare the right people to execute our goals?

2. Strategy Process – What should the goals be? What resources are needed? What resources will be needed in 2 years?

3. Operations Process – Linked to goals (stategy) and human capacities. How are we going to achieve the goals? Are the results satisfactory?
The leader of the company and of the leadership team is responsible for execution.
Lots of people aspire to be the leader, and not to do the work.
Leader has to be deeply and personally engaged.
Leader needs full breadth of understanding all issues to be debated.
Leader must run the 3 core processes.

(ie. like a coach who both recruits off the field and works with players in practice to develop skills and implement a game plan with his talent.)
Leader is responsible for judgment.

Can’t use micromanagement – just confront the responsible people and resulting problems.)
Create a culture of execution by articulating priorities, following through with accountability and rewards, and effective dialog. Everyone has to practice dialog constantly. Dialog has to drive everyone’s behavior.

The difference between those who execute and those who don’t is:
1. Knowing what to look for and what to discuss, together with effective judgment.
2. Questioning and assessing commitment and buy-in.
3. Teaching
4. Producing results.

If you are not executing, then you are not much of a leader.
You can be good at conceptualizing, but still not execute well.
Executing has to include HOW you will do it. 
You can’t just hand down goals without discussing reality.
That is how you get commitment, find out if goals are realistic, discover problems and find and create solutions.
You can have people in the wrong positions.
You have to have dialog to discover the problems or teach people to address the HOW.
Meaningful accountability requires ongoing diaglog.
Discuss contingencies and changes in market, etc.
You can also have dialog at the customer level. Listen to existing and future customers.
Accountability requires addressing all the issues constructively.
Your organization will reflect your leadership.
If you see something you don’t like or want, find out what you’re doing or not doing to create it.

Help leaders at all levels to improve skills and judgment.

The Leader’s 7 Essential Behaviors:

1. Know your people and their business.
Filtered interaction is not the same as real knowledge of people and business.
Shallow engagement with people is also inadequate.
Good people like to be quizzed, because they know more than the leader.
Without quizzing, leader doesn’t learn anything.
Probe to learn and to teach.
If people aren’t asking you questions, then you know it’s not an open community. People can’t be afraid to ask or offer dissenting opinions.
The leader also needs to understand the business so their input is valuable for both questioning and teaching.
The communication itself is very positive. Helps them do what they know they should be doing.
The personal connection makes everything easier. By showing up and being positive, you can be more effective with a Socratic approach to questioning.
Understand both operations and ground level reality, then discuss, then set expectations, then follow up.

2. Insist on Realism.
Realism is uncomfortable.
Describing strengths is easy, weaknesses is difficult. Discussing why and what you will do about it is hard. Get specific about how your are going to do it.
It isn’t about who is right. Don’t try to defend and explain. Expand understanding of multiple facets of reality.
Engage everyone in learning.

3. Set clear goals and priorities.
Not too many, just 1 to 3.
Too easy to get bogged down with multiple priorities.
Speak clearly and directly. Address the right issues: reality and action.

4. Follow through.
Set follow through expectations and do it.
Schedule it with the right people.

5. Reward the Doers.
Send the right message . Rewards and respect are based on performance.

6. Expand People’s capabilities through coaching.
Coaching lets you expand everyone’s capabilities and get better results.
Just like a sports coach, observe people in action and give useful feedback.
Ask incisive questions Force them to thing (Socratic).
After you assess them, it can help you to know what to teach.
After you assess them, explore weaknesses.
Always end with teaching and building up and explore positive correction.
People who won’t change have to be fired.
Its not just numbers, its about behavior.
Best learning is as a team working on a common real life problem.
80% of learning occurs outside the classroom.
Classroom is for getting the tools needed. Then they need to go out and be a learner, a leader and a teacher.

7. Know Yourself.
Ask: Do you have the emotional fortitude? To deal with reality and discuss it?
Can you handle ambiguity? And deal with it?
Can you make the tough decisions required of a leader?
Can you follow through and hold accountable? Can you deal with underperformers?
Build on your strengths and address your weaknesses.
Business leadership ethic: have the fortitude to lead.
i. authenticity: congruency.
ii. self-awareness: know strengths; know weaknesses and how to work around them and when you need help.
iii. self-mastery.
iv. humility.
You are going to make mistakes. Learn from them.
When others make mistakes, don’t beat them up, coach and help them develop needed competence and confidence.

Creating the Framework for Cultural Change.

You need processes that will change behavior related to execution and reward for achieving.

Identifying the desired results and withdrawal rewards for missing results.
If you have agreed on what a person should do, then you have to hold people accountable.
Act yourself into a new way of thinking.
People have to see the culture including mission, values, rewards, to believe and live it.
You get what you measure for – both financial and variables.

Not enough to set goals and reward (the sink or swim mentality).
You have to coach. Break it down to short term process. Create dialog. Socratic learning process.
Back up culture of performance with the tools needed to improve results.

Hardware: reward system and other quantitative systems.
Software: norms of behavior to be rewarded and other non-quantitative processes.
Software is you social operating mechanisms.
All means of communication.

Software can transcend deeply rooted cultures (esp. local cultures)

1. use integrative processes: across teams and processes, internal to external, wherever new links are created by communication.

2. use new means of communication to disseminate the message of the leader.
Use communication processes to drive the culture of the company.
Communication reasons and processes can include the review process, sharing best practices, coaching, discussing reality.

You can’t have an execution culture without robust dialog.
Informality is essential to candor. Informality is spontaneous and open.
Dialog changes the psychology of the group. It either expands it or shrinks it, energizing or draining, produces optimism or pessimism, unifying or creating factions.
Key is to have Meaningful Dialog.
Harmony can be the enemy of truth.
Leaders that redo decisions after discussion drains the business culture of the ability to discuss important decisions.
Leaders that use power instead of dialog drains the culture of the ability to discuss important decisions.
Company without good outcomes is the result of ineffective dialog.
Too much politics, too much aggression, too much softening, butt kissing
Things that impede getting reality on the table.
Go in with an open mind to learn and contribute, not with an agenda.
Even (especially) absurd sounding ideas can lead to breakthroughs. The things you initially dismiss or disagree with are the potential sources for breakthroughs.
Get multiple viewpoints. Address pros and cons of each. Try to construct new viewpoints and insights.
Don’t defend old ideas.
Robust dialog ends with Closure – who will do what – clear.
Gather information, understand it, reshape it, make decisions.
It starts with the dialog of the leaders.
Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate.
The culture of the of the company is the behavior of the leaders.
Measure change by leaders change and performance change.
Leaders create the social software:
Methods of communication
Values and expectations
Commitments and follow through
Producing a profit justifies the change that you make.
Increase the intensity of “what are you going to do about it?”
Increase the people focus.
Focus on growth potential of individuals.
Expand the audience – you learn more and bring more knowledge to the table.

Having the Right People in the Right Place.

What does the job require? Today? Tomorrow?
Select and develop the right people – leadership pipeline.
Executive development needs to be a core competency.
This is commitment to the people process.
Leader can’t fail to define the job and seriously appraise a job candidate.
Ask the right questions – what are the 3 non-negotiable skills required?
Have the courage to confront poor performance.
Loyalty based on wrong factors is bad.
Be dedicated to the right things.

Acknowledging a problem is meaningless. You must be committed to fixing, including developing the right people. 
Give them different jobs to learn from. Help them learn from different people.
The most important questions for hiring a leader is “how good is this leader at getting things done come hell or high water?”
Execution is more important than a persons education or IQ or resume or pedigree.
The more you get done, the more you increase your capacity.
Get more done through other people by making follow though automatic.
Don’t micromanage – it is inefficient.
Don’t abandon by setting goals and then failing to follow through and teach.
Some leaders drain energy from people, some create energy in people.

Execution creates energy, not pep talks. Execution reflects down to earth reality and victories that reward.
Leaders start with a VISION of what the company or division needs to do to overcome obstacles and increase success.
Learn to communicate it and break it down to produce action.
Teach others to sell the new concepts and action and personal growth.

Be decisive. Make decisions and act.
A leader must be able to work with others.
If you can’t, you diminish everyone’s capacity.
It can lead to many people working longer hours to try to get the job done, which is a sign of weakness in getting things done through others.

Follow through is the cornerstone of execution.
It exposes any lack of discipline. Everyone should be doing what is agree to do when it was agreed to be done.
It exposes lack of connection between ideas and reality.
It forces specificity required to complete successfully.
It causes rapid response to any changes.

Never finish a meeting without stating what the follow through will be.
1. Who will do the follow through?
2. When and how will the follow through be done?
3. What resources will they use to do it?
4. When and where and with whom will be the next review?

Don’t launch an initiative until you are committed to see it through until it is imbedded in the organization.

How to get the right people in the right jobs:
Interview questions:
How did you make decisions in your last job?
What did you accomplish and how?
How did you deal with people?
Get a profile of how they think and what drives them.
Energy and enthusiasm for execution?
Detail? For obstacles overcome? For people?
Talk to their references about the above.
Interview regarding performance should assess learning needs regarding execution per above.
Post interview memo to the individual for learning and follow up.
Team can focus on training people and moving them to right job.

The 3 Core Processes of Execution
1. The People Process
2. Strategy.
3. Operations.

Begin with the people process as the most important.
a. evaluate depth
b. framework for strategy and execution
c. fills leadership pipeline.

The People Process needs to be forward looking – skills to be needed.
Promoting focused on past performance can lead to future difficulty.
Early feedback can prevent someone unqualified from rising into too much responsibility.
Essential to reign in leaders that are draining the organization of energy.

Planning actions to meet organizations needs over time:
1. Link it to the strategic plan and its near (0-2 years), mid (2-5) and long (5+) term milesontes.
2. Link it to the operations plan targets, especially financial targets.
3. Develop leadership pipelines – through assessment of succession and retention.
4. Decide what to do about non-performers.

People process evaluates skills need for the goals set.
Who will lead? Who will be accountable? Whose skills will be obsolete and need new training or replacement?
Put the questions on the table.
Strategy milestones – 0-2 years, 2-5 years, 5+ years.

1. Leadership assessment summary.
a. behavior – identifies current patterns and skills
especially people and team skills
b. performance

2. Continuous improvement summary
a. targets, goals, performance history
b. learning skills track and challenges

3. Analyzing depth (succession plan) and retention risk (contingencies to keep or replace).
Example of lack of depth: dot-coms using 20-somethings to lead
You need to have the right criteria to assess people at various positions
Be able to support your assessments and recommendations
Group observations and dialog can be very thorough and more accurate.
You don’t always get agreement, but you can get a lot on the table.

Always write summaries:
a. observations.
b. things you need to address – especially people process
c. challenges ahead and plan to address
d. what you committed to do.

Dealing with non-performers.
1. If manager has been promoted beyond ability, then move to suit his strengths
2. If manager simply isn’t going to perform in any role, then terminate.
Important to preserve the dignity of people you terminate, since they will interact with your customers after they leave and could hurt you.

HR needs to understand how to leverage people relative to the goals of the business.
HR need to understand how the business makes money and strategy and operations.
Identify the skills your organization needs
HR needs to plan for recruiting and training.
Develop a common language in company by communicating regard requirements.

4 categories of job skills:
1. Functional
2. Business
3. Management
4. Leadership

Strategy Process: linking strategy with people and operations.
Strategy focuses on direction and action.
Focus on HOW of executing the strategy.
Substance and detail has to come from qualified people involved in doing the job.
Can you do it? How? Do you have the people you need?
Opportunities? Threats? Competitive advantages? Alternatives?
Building blocks of any strategy need to be clearly defined.
Must stay in touch with reality; respond to people and conditions; refine continuously.
Strategy at the corporate level – allocates resources among all the business units.
Strategy at the business unit level, but corporate strategy has to add some additional value. For example, social software and people development.
Also, corporate level strategy may call for reducing or eliminating division or adding new products and divisions.

Business Unit Strategy – document of less than 50 pages with a 1 page summary
Specifications: direction of the unit
What it is now; where it will be going; how it will get there
Look at costs, capital resources and risk
Look at necessary flexibility
Look at competitors and business environment
Every strategy boils down to a few strategic building blocks
Get specific at the action level – operations and people

People on the line make it specific as they implement the intent.
They are in the bet position to determine what will work
Address risks; determine skills needed, etc
Good strategy process: involve people in the business and environment
Help them develop insights and learn from mistakes – DISCUSS
Leader owns the strategic plan’s development – get input through discussion.
Analyze environment and competitors and why some competitors are more successful.
Decide on the critical issues at the beginning. What do we need to know?
External environment and assessment and variable/change/?
How well do you understand current customers and markets?
What is the key to grow the business profitably?
What are the obstacles to growth? How will we sustain profits during growth?
Who is the competition? What are the critical issues facing us?
What are the important milestones for execution?
Can the business execute the strategy?
Are the short term and long term balanced?

To understand customers, good to talk to some.
Segment and map your markets by variables (ie customer profile characteristics)
Different strategies for each segment of customers

Most people underestimate their competitors’ response
When you overestimate competitors, you miss opportunities.
You have to ask the right questions to assess anything
What do you need to do?
Plan that doesn’t account for possibility of change is too risky. Business has to generate profit short term and long term.
Review the strategy with all the key players
Examine strategy for realism, opportunities, execution needs, commitment, self-assessment, etc.

1. Analyze the competition. What are they planning? How good is their sales team? How will they respond to us?
2. How good are we? In what areas? How should we plan, train and/or hire?
3. Is the plan scattered or sharply focused? Priorities? Have we chosen the right ideas?
How do you make the right choices?
Is it specific?
Is it clear?
Is it robust?
Dialog to test ideas.
a. Is this idea consistent with reality of the market place?
b. Does it mesh with our capabilities?
c. Are we taking on too much at once?
d. Will it make money?
If you don’t have experience in the market segment, it is a bigger risk.
Are the linkages with people and operations clear?
Use measurements and yardsticks to set standards and check reality.
Have you meshed the strategy with operations?
Debate any assumptions, especially results / effects assumptions
Test assumptions based on self-interest
Get the assumptions out in the open
Test assumptions by going to customers
Especially where you see projected changes, ask why? What supports this assumption?
Consider what if assumption is wrong: upside and downside?
Who is the customer? Their needs? How long? Customers’ customers?

Operating Plan: set goals (with subsets), action plan, commitments and follow-ups.
Make sure your budget reflects gross margins and net profits.
Translate strategy into action and follow-ups, then adjust strategic plan to reflect reality and operating assumptions.

Good opportunities for coaching and direction focus and processes.
Make good tradeoffs in resource allocation.
Reviews: If they are falling behind and projecting picking up, you have to say “Let’s assume that you don’t pick back up, then what are you going to do about that possibility NOW?”
Reality of a missed commitment: You missed the commitment.
Adjust NOW, not after further failure.

Targets disconnected from reality are meaningless.
Operating plan: where people take ownership and action.
If there is a gap between target needed and target capable, then you have to find ways to close the gaps.
If they don’t come through, then they aren’t addressing the gaps.

Stretch has to be realistic. You have to know HOW.
Do you need more resources? What else?
You need some plan for improving results, not just “hope.”

No comments: