Top 6 Tips on Being Great at Execution

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On May 7, 2012

Maybe you dream about having a great company. That’s a wonderful thing, but companies need more than dreams to become great successes. One of the things that separates great dreamers from great leaders is the ability to execute—and execute well. Without execution nothing happens. Dreams and ideas remain just dreams and ideas.

So how can you take your ability to execute to the next level? Here are six simple steps to help you achieve excellence in execution.

1. Set Clear Company Goals and Strategy

If you don’t have clear company goals, how will you know if you’ve succeeded? Your goals have to be specific and they have to be measurable. Once you know what your objective is you can develop a strategy for getting there. Without goals and strategy you’re just acting busy.

2. Schedule Consistent Annual and Quarterly Planning

Some leaders resist planning. They’d rather be “doing” than planning. But if you’re not planning and setting measurable goals and evaluating your progress, you won’t know if you’re making progress. And in today’s business climate, you need to be nimble and flexible. That means meeting regularly to evaluate if your goals (and your progress toward those goals) are still in line with what you want to do. These “big picture” meetings are critical to make sure you’re on track.

3. Follow Up With Daily/Weekly/Monthly Meetings

These meetings help ensure that daily, monthly, or quarterly activities are in line with the “big picture” plans. If you find you’ve gotten off track, it’s much better (and easier) to make a course correction after a few weeks rather than at the end of the year. Missing a weekly projection, for instance, may not be a big deal. But if you miss your projections for a month—or a quarter—it may indicate a bigger issue.

4. Make Sure Every Team Member Has Role Clarity, Understands His or Her Contribution, and Knows How Success Will Be Measured

While it’s true that not everyone in the company has the same level of responsibility, it’s critical that each member of your team understands how what he or she does enables the company to succeed. The measureable goals for manufacturing, for instance, are dramatically different than those for sales or marketing. As a leader, you need to clearly define what success looks like for each aspect of the business and clearly communicate that. You can’t evaluate performance fairly if people don’t understand how performance will be measured.


5. Create a Culture of Ownership, Accountability, and Responsibility

In great companies, the employees feel that they “own” the business. This isn’t about who owns how much stock, or who gets the biggest payoff if the company is sold (although those can be important elements). This is about people feeling that their efforts make a difference. People want to be a part of something successful. If you’ve done a good job with #4 above you’ve made a great start. But then you need to recognize the contributions employees make. You need to remind people that the things they do matter to the overall success of the company. Business really is a team sport!

6. Make Sure Key Actions Always Have a Who, a What, and a When Attached

We’ve all been in meetings where great decisions were made and great plans were forged—and then nothing happens. When you have your planning meetings and decide on a course of action, make sure you carefully and clearly identify the exact actions to be taken. Then don’t let anyone out of the room until you record who is responsible for the action, and when the task needs to be completed.  Then send a memo after the meeting with these items clearly spelled out. That eliminates the “I thought you were going to do that?” syndrome.

Review these six items before your next planning meeting. You’ll notice a big difference in the results.

Is there anything you’d add to these six tips?