Thank God It's Monday™ e-zine by Roxanne Emmerich
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Issue: 97
September 27, 2010
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Dear Roxanne,
Our leadership team is full of ideas. Hardly a week goes by without somebody coming up with a bright idea about sales, service, or the color of the tile in the men's room. Every idea gets a round of applause and a task force. But there's so much planning that nothing ever actually gets done. I need some language for capturing this problem and getting us off the drawing board. Can you help me?

-- Benjamin S.

Dear Benjamin,
Actually I think your language is right on the money. You've put your finger on a very real problem. Many businesses THINK they have a lot going on because there's so much scurrying around, so many meetings. But planning without execution is like a box of firecrackers and no match. Thanks for inspiring this week's column!

--Roxanne

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Untie Yourself From Planning and Make Things HAPPEN!

When most people think of Gulliver's Travels, they picture the big guy tied to the ground by the tiny people of Lilliput. Not a bad metaphor for modern life, eh?

But my favorite part of that story is the flying island of Laputa. The Laputians are philosophers, wicked smart, but they spend all their time navel-gazing--thinking deep thoughts, making complex calculations--and never get around to doing anything. (No surprise that their wives often leave the island and never come back. Talk about SMART.)

I know an awful lot of business leaders who probably have Laputian passports, if you know what I mean.

That's not good. Execution is everything. Plan all you want, dream all you can, then turn that key or you've accomplished nothing. Execution is what separates those who merely have lofty ideas from those who end up winning the game. It's about taking strategies and making sure they are implemented with power.

If you generate ideas without a plan to execute them, you might as well be Gulliver tied to that beach in Lilliput.

Creating a culture of execution is a leadership issue. It combines creating a "no-excuses, get-it-done" culture with the systems, processes, and accountabilities that ensure things are done consistently and done well.

But it's also more than a leadership issue. People at every level in an organization can get bogged down in planning and strategizing without ever getting off the pot.

It's easy to guess which things in a company are measured and audited: It's the things that people actually DO and do well. If you want something done with fairly strong consistency, set measurable benchmarks.

The bad news--a.k.a. the OPPORTUNITY--is that the service, sales, and spirit components of business are hardly ever systemized, audited, measured, or rewarded, and rarely are there repercussions for non-compliance in these areas.

If a standard is measured in the forest, and no on is there to audit it--does it make a difference? Why should it?

Dropping the ball in this kind of follow-up is why most companies do a better job at operations than they do at culture, sales, and service.

Do you smell an opportunity for increasing effectiveness and explosive growth? I sure do!

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Getting Off the Drawing Board

Sure, it's important to decide whether a new idea is any good. But there's more to be done before you set the ball in motion:

  1. Clear the deck. Are there other initiatives in the pipeline? If so, how does the proposed idea fit in the mix? Will the new initiative delay those, or draw away needed energy?
  2. Set a timeline with measurable landmarks. If you decide to go forward, by what date should the committee meet? When would you like to see recommendations? When should implementation begin?
  3. Set a kill date. Establish a point in time by which the initiative can be assessed and either killed or green-lighted.

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Uncommon Sense
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Take a quick survey of all current initiatives in the planning stages in your department. Which ones need a push forward? Which need a push off a cliff?
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