Execution May be Unglamorous and Tedious, But it’s What Brings in the Results

Most discussion on management is heavily skewed towards aspects such as approach, strategy, concept and other ‘cool’ management jargon. But in all of this, ‘execution’ usually gets very little air time. In most cases, it is almost an afterthought. This is problematic because effective leadership is just not about making complicated growth projections or brainstorming with the executive team. It’s about getting things done.

Of course, there is absolutely no debate that strategy is important. But for the strategy to bear fruit, it needs to be executed effectively. Ideally, this execution needs to be led by the leadership team, and not relegated to the junior team members.

If we look around us, the companies that have done well are those that are good at execution. We find that start-ups go bust even after raising money because they completely falter with the execution. So, why does execution get such a raw deal?

1.It’s never as easy as it looks

Every management initiative should come with a warning – Things are far more complicated than they appear. Bringing people on the same page and getting them to commit to change involves a lot of hard work, commitment, persistence and tact. Only after the stakeholders start to see value in the exercise, will they even begin to cooperate, let alone prioritise the exercise.

Let’s say you have undertaken a strategic realignment of business units to better support growth objectives. Whether you’ve engaged a management consultancy or are running it with internal resources, an important step in this exercise is to speak to the heads of all the Business Units to understand the role of each one in the overall company deliverables. While this seems like a fairly straightforward process, there is a chance that the interviews with Business Unit leaders may be completely unproductive because of factors such as:

  • Lack of trust and suspicion about the motive of the exercise
  • Bruising of personal egos that makes people uncooperative
  • Inherent resistance to change

Winning their trust itself can be a major task that doesn’t even get accounted for or acknowledged most of the time. A strong review process to monitor the impact of any initiative and take further steps is another part of the execution process that requires a great amount of discipline, but it often not recognized.

2.Leadership focus is often on approach rather than on execution

In our experience, we’ve seen that leaders are actively involved in the brainstorming, ideation and conceptualisation stages; but when it comes to execution, they tend to hand it over to a team members and wash their hands off the actual process.

But the process component needs tremendous thought and is fraught with complications. What exactly needs to be done? Who’s responsible for what? Who will be impacted? How will it be handled? What are the consequences of non-cooperation by stakeholders? How to mitigate negative repercussions? Etc.

3.Execution is not a magic bullet – it doesn’t happen overnight.

For most part, execution is a thankless job because efforts and their outcome are both not apparent immediately.  Irrespective of the size of the organisation, navigating through the organisational ecosystem, playing to each stake holder’s priorities is not easy. This work is not the stuff that catches the eye, unfortunately.

At Above N Beyond, we believe that while coming up with the grand strategy is great, it is equally important to get down and dirty and ensure that the strategy is implemented effectively.

Of course, it’s hard work; but it’s what brings in the results.