Thursday, August 11, 2005

Four (4) Disciplines of Execution

(If you want to learn more about this topic, I encourage you to attend CLCI's 4 Disciplines of Execution Workshop. The first version of this article was published in Sun.Star.)

If your organization is having a hard time achieving business goals or missing critical deadlines, perhaps it is time to review your organization’s Execution Quotient.

I first discovered this while reading the 8th Habit. I was on a middle of a process improvement project but noticed and felt that there are a lot of challenges and issues that hampers me from getting the work done.

As a consultant, your role is to support, facilitate, and contribute your expertise. In order to create a lasting impact, every effort must be taken to ensure that the organization will do well on its own after your term of service. This is what Level 5 Leadership is all about where empowerment of peers, discipline, and consistency is a normal culture in the organization.

The Execution Quotient survey looks at the level of employee commitment, whether organization goals are properly understood, and identify issues or barriers that prevent them from meeting their organization and team goals.

I believe this survey should be undertaken by all organizations every six months as it gives you a realistic perspective on the health of your organization with metrics supporting it. It will also guide you in coming up programs and set-up appropriate metrics to monitor its progress.

My interpretation and understanding on the 4 Disciplines of Execution taught me the following:

1. Focus on the Wildly Important Goals
Having a clear organizational vision and goals are important. They serve as a point of reference for each employee to base his/her actions, activities and contributions on. Team or department goals can be created to support the vision. Personnel would be able to define their individual goals to ensure that they hit the target.

Without it, the employees will base their initiatives on perception and personal understanding of what is best for the organization. This could result in lack of trust among personnel, as issues are not openly discussed or are used against the personnel raising it.

This may sound easy but it is easier said than done. Baseline is needed and the metrics that we define should be realistic and challenging enough for the entire organization to pursue.

2. Create a Compelling Scoreboard
Once clear vision, goals, and metrics are identified and disseminated, a visible and compelling scoreboard needs to be made available to everyone in the organization. This is how achievement can be monitored and evaluated.

3. Translate Lofty Goals into Specific Actions
From the identified goals, specific actions have to be identified. They must be realistic. Management must also take every effort to ensure that proper resources and support are provided, avoiding favoritism. It is not fair to ask employees to meet goals if resources are insufficient. This can only result in loss of morale.

4. Hold Each Other Accountable - All of the Time
Assignments must be clearly identified and be aware of the dependencies that rest on their work output. The scoreboard can help greatly in monitoring progress. If we have problems on delivery output by our peers, we need to be upfront in raising our concern. We should leave no room for "I noticed that in the past but I kept quiet." These remarks don't help, they only intend to point blame on people. Being quiet does not take your accountability away as well in getting a project done according to plan.

However, in a supportive environment, if we have finished our work ahead of schedule, there's no harm in helping out others (who may have taken more than what they can chew or underestimated the task)

An evolving process
These are not easy tasks, especially for organizations that have been around for a while. Also, only those who are in pain may succeed in instituting changes.

It is important for an entity to first address its basic organizational problems before embarking on serious projects that require a lot of resources and change in process, such as ISO certification and the like. I remember an ending pitch that the host of American Top 40 TV and radio edition would say, as he wraps-up the program, "Keep your feet on the ground and (or as you) reach for the stars! (or sky)"