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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Execution - The Greatest Challenge in Business

To quote former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, "When it's all said and done, more is said, than done."

Likewise, execution is critical to an organization's success, yet it's much easier said than done.

In their book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan strongly support strategy execution as a critical leadership role, making three clear statements:
  1. Execution is a discipline, and it's integral to strategy formulation.
  2. Execution is the major job of the business leader.
  3. Execution must be a core element of an organization’s culture.

However, execution appears to be the greatest challenge.

In his book, Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change, Professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak from the Wharton Business School identified the following issues related to the challenge of execution.

Notice that all four of the problems mentioned below are people-related issues:

  1. Managers are trained to plan, not execute.
  2. Some top executives do not see themselves as responsible for executing the strategies they formulate.
  3. Strategy execution happens over a much longer time frame than strategy formulation.
  4. Strategy execution involves more people than strategy formulation.

In his best-selling book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, author, veteran CEO and strategy execution expert Gary Harpst identified that the balance of both strategy and execution is the key to lasting excellence. Excellence is a journey that never ends. It's an enduring pursuit that requires and enduring approach.

BOTTOMLINE: According to Harpst, "Planning and executing, while at the same time managing the unknowns of the real world is the biggest challenge in business. Overcoming this challenge is what we mean by solving the one problem that makes solving all other problems easier. It builds an organization that is preparing for an ever-increasing set of future challenges, which are the natural result of overcoming today's challenges."

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