An Execution-Driven Culture

Dear Clients and Friends, 



On one afternoon last October, more than 500 people posted comments on the website, including someone named Likebillmurrayingroundhogday. They all wanted insurance. They all got empty clicks. 


Around that same time in Waterloo, Ontario, executives at BlackBerry Limited were trying to understand how the company could be selling more phones with its old operating system than the sophisticated, newly-launched BlackBerry 10. By year end, BlackBerry's market share had dropped, with another whistle, to .6 percent.


And just weeks ago, America let out a collective groan as Canada knocked the puck past American goalie Jessie Vetter in overtime in Sochi, wiping out a 2-0 lead and four years of sweat-effort by the U.S. women's hockey team to wrest back the Olympic gold.


Empty clicks, falling whistles, groans ... What do they have in common? They're all sounds you hear when well-laid plans go awry. In corporate terms, they signal a failed execution. Why does it happen? How come the most dedicated, highly qualified people sometimes fall short?


Many CEOs have tried to answer this question, most notably Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their highly regarded book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. Notice they use the word "discipline" instead of art. While some facets of business let your right brain go feral, not this one. To get things done effectively and consistently, you have to stick to a strict set of rules. 


  • Make your goals realistic. If you're aiming for a number, whether it applies to a pay raise or weight loss, make sure it's achievable in a realistic way.
  • Keep your focus. You probably have a strapping list of things you want to accomplish, but work on only a small number (maybe just one) at a time.
  • Clarify your strategy. The more straightforward your plan, the more likely you'll follow it. Strive for simplicity in every step.
  • Set milestones. Mini-goals help keep you on target and warn you when your strategy needs tweaking. A good plan is an adaptable plan.
  • Know your obstacles. And spell out exactly how you plan to deal with them.
  • Follow through. This bullet is really the bullet: the dreamer-doer divide. Plans tend to fall apart at this stage because it involves an element of housekeeping that many of us prefer to avoid.
  • Reward achievements. When you reach each milestone, celebrate! Think of it like a Clif bar on a long run, that boost of energy you need to keep moving toward your final goal.


Bossidy and Charan describe several keys for creating an execution-driven culture, including the need for "robust dialogue." Now that we're a quarter of the way into 2014, consider your personal goals for this year. Are you where you wanted to be? Call me and let's talk.


Warm regards,
Barb Provost



"Ideas are easy. It's the execusion of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats."

-Sue Grafton



Barbara J. Provost, MS EdD

Certified Coach, ACC



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