Closing the Gap Between What Needs to Get Done and What Actually Gets Done
As organizations get larger and more complex, turning vision into action becomes more difficult. Making decisions, developing plans, strategies, and initiatives is the easy part.
But without execution, big Ideas go nowhere.
When major decisions, plans, strategies, and initiatives aren’t executed well, things that are supposed to happen don’t happen. And a gap develops between what a company’s leaders want to achieve and the organization’s ability to achieve it. Either the organization isn’t capable of making it happen, or the leaders of the business underestimate the challenges involved, or both.
For many organizations, the right pieces seem to be in place – a smart and talented group of employees, a great business model with an excellent product or service – but the results don’t follow. As the company gets bigger, the most important things aren’t getting done, and the unimportant things eat away precious time and resources. Without a clear map for executing on the most important things, organizations end up with mediocre performance. When there is a disconnect between what an organization wants to do and what really gets done, the result is frustration, finger pointing, higher costs, and lost time.
Execution and Accountability Are Critical
Business success depends on the quality of a few clear goals. But that’s only half the story. The other half is execution. Goals don’t mean much if nobody takes them seriously – and as a result, the organization fails to achieve them. In many cases this is caused by not having systems in place to set goals and monitor performance. Everybody may agree an idea is good, but if nobody is accountable for results, it doesn’t get done.
If people are not held accountable for their performance, others that are working hard and achieving results will become resentful and a perception of unfairness can pervade the organization. Over time, high performers become de-motivated and begin doing the minimum needed to get by.
This growing pain is like arthritis to a business. If an organization can’t get things done, nothing else matters – not the smartest strategy, not the most innovative business model, not even game-changing technology that could transform an industry.
Address Internal Barriers to Execution
Getting things done may sound simple in theory, but making things happen is a big challenge. It requires a systematic approach to synchronizing the moving parts of the organization. Most of the barriers to getting things done are INTERNAL issues, not external factors. Two of the main culprits are the organization’s culture and past habits – and they come up again and again in the form of:
- Organizational inertia
- Inadequate systems for setting and monitoring goals
- Inability to take action on new initiatives
- Slow or indecisive decision-making
- Lack of accountability
- Short-term focus
- Too many priorities
Two things must happen to get things done:
- People must understand what it is that must be done. Your company’s strategy is only effective if your people understand it, are onboard with it, and engaged in making it happen. Execution fails when people don’t understand what needs to be done, aren’t invested in bringing it to life, and don’t see the importance of their roles in executing it. People have to clearly connect their individual contributions to overall company goals. Goals are achieved through people not despite them. Engaging people is the key to strategy execution.
- People need to effectively take action. Setting goals and executing them must be a fundamental element of the organization’s culture – it must happen seamlessly, as part of the day-to-day operation of the business. All of the people responsible for implementing a decision, strategy, plan, or initiative must be involved from the start, thus achieving buy-in and momentum right from the very beginning. And once goals have been set, create a process that clearly outlines how they will be achieved, and most important, connects people to the goals. Then the organization needs to work relentlessly toward achieving those goals.
Measure What’s Important
In order to know if you’re achieving your top priorities you need key metrics within the business to measure. Focus on measuring your most important activities and report those metrics throughout the organization. When performance is measured, performance improves and when performance is measured and reported, the rate of performance dramatically improves. Measurement is a critical part of understanding what is happening.
Discipline Not Bureaucracy
Having a disciplined focus on results isn’t the same as rigidity and bureaucracy. Discipline does not mean rigidity. Companies that lack discipline – in how they operate, solve problems, and get things done – contend with too many organizational layers to be nimble and able to move quickly. Time is wasted navigating the organizational layers rather than creating results. Instilling a disciplined approach means having established methods and defined processes for achieving goals.
Refuse to Tolerate Mediocrity
If you want an organization that has high accountability and disciplined execution, you have to make sure that everyone – from the top to the bottom of the organization – gets things done. And if anyone consistently doesn’t meet their responsibilities, doesn’t meet their goals, or doesn’t meet deadlines, they can’t be part of the organization. If you tolerate mediocrity you are telling everyone in the business that accountability isn’t really important.
Is your business getting things done?