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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Strategy and Execution - Two Of The Top Three Lessons Learned

In a recent Harvard Business Publishing article "Lessons Learned from 30 Years of Leadership", Dick Harrington, former CEO of Thomson Reuters discussed the three most significant lessons learned over his very successful 25+ year career as a Fortune 250 executive.

Harrington's top three:

  1. First, you have to have an "approximately correct" strategy -- you have to know where you are going, but directionally correct is the key.
  2. Second, you have to be highly focused and intensely execute that strategy by motivating and aligning the troops you have.
  3. Third it always comes back to the customers and the fact that you have to manically know your customers and drive everything from that.

What is an "approximately correct" strategy? "You want to be approximately correct instead of precisely incorrect. There is a point at which additional information or research will not change the basics of your strategy. When you get your strategy there, you have to "Nike it" - you just do it. If you continue to refine and refine, you'll never get into action, and the incremental value of research just won't be worth the time and money. Schedule time frames and be religious about them to launch, get feedback, and see if the strategy is acceptable to the customer or if you need to adjust."

What about the execution focus? "What's the best way to rally people and spread that intensity? "First, you have to communicate what you are trying to accomplish. And you need to know the team members who are going to make it happen and those who are going to keep it from happening. It's important to have time with them so they have an opportunity to discuss and debate what's critical. At the same time, you have to draw the line at some point and say "Okay, we have everyone's input. These are the five most important things we need to accomplish and they are the only things we are going to work on." You want everyone - probably 4-5 key people, maybe 10-15 at larger organizations -- in the same boat so you can accomplish those things on a timely basis."

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