Business Execution

Are you having trouble turning your strategy into action? You may just be suffering from what is known as ‘the business execution gap’. That is, the difference between your expectations and the ability to deliver and meet your business goals.

The execution gap is a major challenge that many growth-focused businesses face. How to turn your strategy into action is not easy and there are many reasons why business execution fails. Some of the reasons for failure include: lacking a clear strategy; focusing on too many things; weak evaluations, and lacking in accountability. Whatever the reason, the end result will be the same – business failure, as poor execution directly affects revenue growth and reduces net profit.

It is a well-known business anecdote that 90% of company strategies fail due to poor business execution. We have seen businesses fail first hand, and lament that they did not come to us first.

Business Execution Gap
Tim Cook - Apple CEO

There will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently told his company’s shareholders:

“We are the most focused company that I know of, or have read of or have knowledge of.
We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose. The table each of you is sitting at today, you could probably put every product on it that Apple makes, yet Apple’s revenue last year was $40 billion.”

Focus on tightening your business execution, and you could significantly improve, not only your margins and profits but also the time it takes to complete your work.

How Do You Know If You Have A Business Execution Problem?

Do your people and processes convert top-line revenue into a strong bottom-line profit? If the answer is no, then it is time to pay some attention to how you are implementing your strategy. In the Four Decisions Framework, execution is one of the critical four decisions you need to get right to succeed.

3 Execution Disciplines that are Critical to Execution Success

There are three things you must pay attention to in order to successfully execute your business strategy.

1 - Priorities

Business Priorities

What are the key initiatives that you need to achieve this year? Make sure you prioritize them and find the small number of activities that will make the biggest difference. Ask yourself:

  • What five key initiatives will make the biggest difference to my business this year?
  • Will they enable me to achieve my goals this year?

These initiatives must also align with your company strategy. You can have five or fewer key initiatives but no more than that. This is because, when you have more than five key initiatives, the “law of diminishing returns” takes affect and the chance of achieving any of your initiative reduces. Remember, the more you add to the agenda, the greater the chance of you achieving none of them.

2 - Metrics

Business Metrics

Key metrics (KPIs) in business, are all about data. Metrics are a very important part of execution, as long as you measure and report on the right things. We have all experienced a time where we have got lost in the numbers. Too many and you create a mathematical fog. Most of the businesses I work with, are in the thick of this haze at the beginning. The trick is to ask yourself if your metrics are aligned to, and drive your strategy.

The only numbers you should care about are the ones that clearly report on your strategy progress. You should look at the ones for this quarter and this year only.

It is all about understanding the difference between leading and lagging metrics. If you are only measuring lagging metrics, you will get inconsistent results. For example, sales are a lagging indicator. The number of leads generated from outbound phone calls, followed by the number of meetings confirmed, are examples of leading indicators. Leading indicators show you the way forward. So when you are lost in the numbers, ask yourself the following question. What are the key leading indicators for your: customers, people and development, health and safety, marketing, sales, operations, inventory, finance and admin, innovation and product development?

Paying attention to, and executing based on the right metrics will drive your strategy, and improve your net profit dramatically.

3 - Meeting Rhythms

Meeting Rhythms

Once you know your targets, how are you communicating them to the team? Are you communicating with clarity and speed, and on a regular basis?

Meeting rhythms are a continuous loop of communication within an organisation. Think of it this way. The faster a company wants to grow, the faster it has to exchange messages to make sure that the right information gets to the right people. Good meeting rhythms in your company are essential to great execution. Without them, your chance of executing your strategy well, is pretty much zero.

Successful companies use an effective communications rhythm of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings, to keep in touch with people across all levels of the company and ensure everyone is focused on what is important. They are also a chance for all employees to measure their own progress and observe the progress of others.

The result of a well-run meeting rhythm is a better alignment of strategic decision-making and it ensures everyone is communicating effectively.

More Resources To Help You Execute With Excellence

Master the Rockefeller Habits
The one thing every business leader looking to improve their execution should do is download the Rockefeller Habits Checklist. Designed to improve business execution, the Rockefeller Habits Checklist has 10 essential habits proven to dramatically increase profitability, and reduce the time it takes to manage a business. When the functions of your everyday business run smoothly and efficiently, you have time to plan and think. Download the Rockefeller Habits today and you will have a roadmap towards a better business execution and future growth.

Business Execution Resources
Check-out our list of business execution resources that includes articles, books and tools to help you better manage your business execution. The resource covers common business execution problems such as:

Best Business Execution Books

These must-read business books will help you manage your team to better implementation of your strategy, and improve your net profit.

4 Disciplines of Execution

By Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

Who should read this book: Every business leader wanting to sustainably grow their business.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution offers…the ‘what’ but also ‘how’ effective execution is achieved. They share numerous examples of companies that have done just that, not once, but over and over again. This is a book that every leader should read!”
― Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma

Leigh Paulden’s comments:

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a simple and repeatable formula that will help you execute your most important priorities while you are dealing with your day to day. I particularly like it because it promotes a set of practices that have been tested and refined by hundreds of firms over many years.

Companies that execute really well understand that their success is dependent on having four disciplines in place. The book explains that an important part of getting execution right is having the company energy focus on what they call the “wildly important goal” or top priority. This means team buy-in and commitment are critical to successful execution – without them, your chances are almost nil. And in this, I agree. The book explains how to gain the buy-in and commitment critical to success and achieving the wildly import goal. It also explains why each discipline is so important and how to achieve these. I see this as a must read book.

4 Disciplines of Execution

Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution: Solving the One Business Problem That Makes Solving All Other Problems Easier

By Gary Harpst

Who should read this book: Senior and middle managers, as well as business owners

“In my experience, most leaders of small to midsized organizations do not have a clear understanding of the relationship between strategy, execution, and excellence.”
― Gary Harpst

Leigh Paulden’s comments:

Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution is one of my top rated execution books.

You can have the best strategy in the world, but if your company is weak at execution, you will not execute the strategy or get the results you expect or should have achieved. This book can really help your company improve its execution. Execution equals net profit and therefore directly influences how much net profit your company will make.

Six Disciplines® Execution Revolution is an engaging read that addresses and gives examples of getting things done. The guidance given through this book is very actionable and achievable for your company.

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

By Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Who should read this book: Anyone wants to increase their productivity and have better execution across their business

“Execution has to be a part of a company’s strategy and its goals. It is the missing link between aspirations and results. As such, it is a major—indeed, the major—job of a business leader. If you don’t know how to execute, the whole of your effort as a leader will always be less than the sum of its parts.”
― Larry Bossidy

Leigh Paulden’s comments:

When you want to get things done, and you want results – read this book. It will help! It will lead you through how to stay focused and make things happen. It looks at ‘what’ you need to do to prompt the actions you need to execute to reach your goals. Effective execution is a system that needs to be built into your business strategy, goals and culture – this book will add huge clarity to help you do things better.

Turn the Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders

By L. David Marquet

Who should read this book: Anyone who leads a team or aspires to become a business leader

“Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.”
― David Marquet

Leigh Paulden’s comments:

This “how to book” is a powerful narrative on how to grow leadership in people. It’s a true story and it’s relevant to any person in any level of a business structure. If someone has aspirations to empower the people around them and become a leader, regardless of their position, they will find this interesting and full of practical applications.

Strong leadership within teams will drive huge improvements in business execution and this book is a ‘go to’ resource (and a good read) on how to turn followers into leaders. Read it, pass it around and watch the level of engagement and execution within your team grow!

Spin Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Methods, Exercises, and Resources

By Neil Rackham

Who should read this book: Anyone in a sales role

“Is your sales call so valuable that your client would write you a check for your visit?”
― Neil Rackham

Leigh Paulden’s comments:

This practical book is about the structure of selling. Sales is a process and this book does the thinking for you on how to put the process together. To successfully push your prospects up, you need the process, you need to measure and track and this is the sales ‘bible’ to help you do it all.

The book includes:

  • Individual diagnostic exercises
  • Illustrative case studies from leading companies
  • Practical planning suggestions
  • Provocative questionnaires
  • Practice sessions to prepare you for dealing with challenging selling situations

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty

By Patrick Lencioni

Who should read this book: Anyone in a sales role and all business owners

“If everything is important, then nothing is.”
― Patrick Lencioni

Leigh Paulden’s comments:

Sales have changed – the most recent GFC had an impact, the internet impacts – so how do you stay on top of these shifts? This book is very easy to read, and written as a fable it is digestible and a brilliant example on consultative selling. I recommend this as a key resource for gaining competitive advantage in tough times. It shows us why the quality of vulnerability is important in business and includes many ideas for inspiring customer and client loyalty.

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