Any business that wants to grow needs to spend some serious time mapping out a solid business strategy. Without a good strategy you’re simply winging it and hoping for the best. But a strategy that stays on paper doesn’t do you much good. I like the way one of the great leaders of the early 20th Century summed it up:
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
—Sir Winston Churchill
What Mr. Churchill was talking about is the execution of strategy. He is not alone in his opinion, and the importance of execution is not something that faded away with the last century. In an article published by Forbes in May of 2012, Karl Moore quoted, the CEO of the 31,000 employee IT firm, CGI:
Strategy without execution is hallucination!
— Mike Roach
So, how do you move from a great strategy to excellent execution? That’s where “WWW” comes in. In our online world, www is almost always synonymous with “World Wide Web.” And while the Web may be a great tool that we leverage in business on a daily basis, I’m talking about something entirely different: Who; What; and When.
Who: A plan will only be executed if someone actually does it. Every specific task associated with your strategy needs to have an owner. And you need a record of who that person is. It’s also not enough to say, “Marketing,” or “Sales,” or “Engineering.” You need to identify a single individual to shoulder the responsibility. Then when you’re checking up on status you know exactly with whom to talk.
What: Successful execution also depends on a clear understanding of exactly what is expected. “Increase sales,” isn’t specific enough. How much are you planning to increase? Will the increase be across the board or will it be divided between departments or market segments? Again, it’s essential that you record exactly what the expectations are. Think about all the times you’ve come out of a business meeting in which participants have a slightly different recollection of what was discussed. Writing it down eliminates that and enhances accountability.
When: Another big part of guaranteeing the successful execution of your plan is to have a specific deadline by which tasks will be completed. This goes beyond setting a goal for the fiscal year. You’ll want intermediate goals so that you can monitor progress. And sometimes one department’s goals/deadlines are dependent upon another department’s delivery. For instance, Manufacturing may have a deadline of August 1 to deliver a certain number of widgets. But if Engineering misses their deadline of June 1 to deliver the plans, it throws everything off.
Who, What, and When seem like pretty simple things to arrange, but it’s amazing how often companies make plans and neglect to cover those bases. It’s a simple discipline you have to master. Just remember that your strategy isn’t complete until you have a plan that identifies who is responsible, what they are expected to do, and when they are expected to have the task completed.