Great organizations are not only known for having a smart business model, clear strategy, multiple financing options, or better people. Great organizations differentiate themselves by being able to get things done better than others by translating a business model or strategy into quick action. In other words they differentiate themselves through better and more nimble execution.
Plenty of books have been written about execution (take a look at a couple of my favorites at the end) and you can find plenty of tips and suggestion on the web. For your convenience, I’ve summarized the conventional wisdom into 6 simple steps that you can (and should) do daily to improve your teams ability to get things done.
1. Connect Your Team With The Bigger Picture
The Corporate Leadership Council have repeatedly proven that two levers have the biggest impact on individual employee performance:
- Understanding the connection between work and the organisational strategy
- Being able to link the impact of the job to the companies success
You can start with helping your team by making sure they:
- Discover and understand how they fit into the organization
- Know how their efforts impact the success of the organization
- Understand where the team can contribute to the overall strategy goals
For example, a finance team lead can help their team double its revenue in frontier markets by highlighting how accurate, reliable and ready available information of the companies financial position will help the leadership make better decisions on how much and where to invest to expand into new markets.
2. Pick a ‘MAD’ (Make-All-the-Difference) Goal
Select goals that will make all the difference in contributing to the companies ‘MAD’ goals. Goals that will engage every member of the team and has, as Peter Senge puts it, a ‘creative tension’ between your current reality and your aspiration.
Research shows that setting too many goals is counter-productive. Teams that aim to achieve between 4-12 goals only achieve 1 or 2 and teams that set more than 12 goals normally don’t achieve any! So keep the number of ‘MAD’ goals to less than 3. One of the most important roles as a leader is to choose. Exercise this responsibility and choose wisely!
Building on our examples of our finance team leader you could decide to help facilitate faster decision making of the board by setting a MAD goal to publish the monthly financial statements 5 days after the month closure instead of the normal 10th of the next month.
3. Agree How You Will Get There
Translating your MAD goal into activities is the next step. These activities need to be articulated in a way that:
- Can be influenced by the team
- Contribute to your team MAD goal
Using our finance team again translating their ‘MAD’ goal into activities could be:
- Collecting invoices to be paid for the month by the 28th of each month
- Overtime payment data to be collected and processed by the 21st of the month.
- All transactions for the month to be booked by the 31st
4. Measure And Display
Once you know the activities, you have to measure your progress and make sure the results are visible, simple and in each team members face. Your team should know whether they are winning or loosing their ‘MAD’ goals.
My favorite examples of scorecards goes back to my Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) exposure in the Unilever factories I worked in. TPM was Unilever’s total quality initiative. What I loved about it was the way the most junior workers were involved in its process. Whenever I visited a factory as HR director, the factory workers with beaming faces presented their TPM initiatives through scoreboards in which their progress was represented in minute detail. The pride of the team was infectious since they did it themselves. They made the score boards, kept them up to date and they delivered the results. The impact on factory efficiency, costs and quality in all these factories that had embraced TPM and these scoreboard was tremendous.
5. Meet, Commit And Hold People Accountable
Accountability for actions gets the team to really deliver the targets. It’s important to meet on a frequent basis to discuss progress. Some experts suggest to meet daily, but my experience shows that this doesn’t work for ‘busy bees’. Instead, meet every week for not more than 30 minutes to discuss the teams progress on the activities.
The key question for each team member to answer is:
What are the 1 – 3 most important actions I can take this week to impact the scorecard?
During the team meeting each member can then share three simple things:
- What have I done last week to improve the scorecard?
- Have we made the desired progress on both the activities and our ‘MAD’ goal?
- What commitment can I make for next week to move the needle on our activities?
To make sure these meetings are successful:
- Make sure they happen – don’t get distracted by daily activities
- Focus only on activities that need to be done
- Hold people accountable for commitments
By not giving negative feedback in 1-on-1 meetings, individuals receive the message simultaneously. This removes the opportunity for office gossip, everybody knows they have to deliver and it reinforces a culture of mutual accountability. The leader obviously must give constructive feedback focusing on data, goals, observed behavior and not place blame on any one person.
6. Remove Barriers
Finally, to drive execution you must make sure you facilitate your team by removing any barrier that stops your team from delivering. These barriers could be linked to:
- How team members work together
- The different styles of the team members
- How they work across other departments
- Financial, human, information limitations
- Individual capabilities
- Road blocks set up by other departments
Your role as a leader is to help team members find solutions for these barriers. Identify them, find solutions, resolve them and keep track of their re-occurrence.
Execution of any process is a discipline that becomes a habit over time. It’s difficult, there’s is a clear path to breaking bad and building good habits. If follow these steps, your team will deliver like no other.
Let me know if you plan on following these steps and how it works for you in the comments below!
Read more: Simple Daily Activities To Enjoy Your Work
Hi, Paul, I have used these steps quite successfully with a team of close to 60 people spread across seven different units. We found this to be effective, and perhaps even more importantly an incredibly energizing way to get the team engaged and aligned to meet broader organizational goals. Our “show” was a poster session that key stakeholders were invited to attend and question/comment on each unit’s goals. The buy-in this created across the entire organization has been golden!
Hi Jackie, thank you for sharing this. I am sure the poster session create a tremendous amount of energy. Scientific research has proven that if people are able to articulate their actions in writing and even better in an artistic manner the commitment levels soar.