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The Execution Imperative are The Business Execution Experts. We have worked with thousands of companies over the last 16 years to help them achieve better business results. This whitepaper is a collection of articles on business execution from our Business Growth Tips weekly newsletter, which is subscribed to by more than 25,000 business leaders worldwide. Business Growth Tips written by Stephen Lynch, Chief Operating Officer,



Content List 1. EXECUTION – The biggest challenge for business 2. Pillar 1: Vision a. How to bring your company vision to life 3. Pillar 2: Strategy a. What is strategy again? b. Do you have a winning strategy for the future? c. A business is more effective when it is more selective d. Do you have a clearly communicated strategic plan? 4. Pillar 3: Engagement a. How to interview and hire A-Players. b. Managers – tell your people where they stand c. Do you know what is expected of you at work? 5. Pillar 4: Accountability a. How do you hold people accountable? b. Accountability is meaningless without consequences c. The benefits of Key Performance Indicators 6. Pillar 5: Cadence a. Are you taking the right action every week? b. Management, one-on-one


Content List |

EXECUTION – The biggest challenge for business Economic events and major trend shifts in the competitive forces that shape industries have caused many companies (indeed, whole industries) to completely rethink their business models and strategic plans. To their peril, many firms let their strategic planning efforts lapse into a meaningless exercise in goal setting – getting better at doing more of the same – only to find that the assumptions under which they have been operating their businesses are no longer valid. To remedy this, it is crucial to use a disciplined thought process to assess how economic and industry dynamics are likely to play out, and then create an effective strategic plan to confront this reality. Strategic planning should be an ongoing process, ideally updated quarterly – not an annual event. Many business leaders realize the need to make profound changes to their company strategy, but then become incredibly frustrated when they share their vision for the future and don’t achieve the implementation traction they desire. Having the right strategy is only the first step. “Execution is the major job of the business leader,” according to Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in their book, Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done. Suppose, for the purposes of this article, that a company has gone through a rigorous, disciplined strategic thinking process. They have involved key managers and team members in the process and have obtained buy-in. They have crafted what appears to be an effective strategic plan to set the firm up for future success in the industry. Far too often, this plan fades from view when managers go back to being busy with day-to-day operations and firefighting. Strategic action priorities specified in the plan often get put on the back burner in favor of the urgent needs of the moment. According to Harvard Business School professor Robert Kaplan, 90% of strategies fail due to poor execution. This is because companies execute their strategies in fits and starts, and few companies are good at aligning their current activities to their long-term strategic priorities.


EXECUTION – The biggest challenge for business |

Consider also the following alarming research: •

Only 27% of employees have access to their company’s strategic plan (Harvard Business School Press)

• •

Only 5% of employees understand their company’s strategy (Strategy and Leadership Journal) 92% of organizations do not measure Key Performance Indicators (Renaissance Solutions)

Balancing strategic planning and business execution is easier said than done. Being able to effectively craft, communicate, and then execute a winning strategy is a core competency that can determine who will ultimately dominate an industry category. Yes, you still need to manage your day-to-day operations, sell your products and services, look after your customers, handle problems, and fight fires. That’s called “doing your job,” or just table stakes. The secret to effective leadership is being able also to devote sufficient time and attention to implementing the key action priorities that will ensure your longer-term strategic objectives will be achieved. Interestingly, while we can handily recall seven-digit phone numbers, studies on working memory show that people can only remember, pay attention to, and manipulate three or four pieces of complex information at one time. These findings have implications for effective strategic leadership. Leaders should be able to clearly articulate the top three things the company is working on. If they can’t, they are not leading well. Ideally, everyone in the company should know the answers to the following questions: • • •

What are the top three strategic moves the company needs to make over the next three to five years in order to position the company for future success in the industry? What are the top three actions the company must execute in the current quarter? What are the top three actions each key individual must personally implement in the next quarter?

Being able to clearly communicate strategic action priorities to this level of granularity and to align key staff to their achievement is rightly considered a major accomplishment for many firms. It is then usually left up to individual managers to ensure these actions are carried out each quarter.


EXECUTION – The biggest challenge for business |

Our studies of highly effective companies and leaders – those who are true masters of business execution – reveal that the certain execution disciplines are required to drive business excellence. These disciplines are categorized into what calls the Five Pillars of Execution: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Vision Strategy Engagement Accountability Cadence

In the following pages, each of these pillars and the associated behaviors and competencies will be examined in greater depth. These best practice business disciplines are incorporated into our Business Execution Software. Business Execution Software makes it simple and easy! Request your demo now!


EXECUTION – The biggest challenge for business |

Pillar 1: Vision How to bring your company vision to life One of a leader’s critical roles is to communicate a clear and compelling vision of the future. Your vision comprises the following three key elements: 

Core Values - WHO your people are (and will be in the future) in terms of their “must have” behaviors

Core Purpose - WHY your company exists

BHAG© (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) - WHAT you intend to achieve in the future

The Core Values of most companies we see are anything but. Often they are empty platitudes, posted on a wall, that are not meaningful to the people in your company. These banalities bear little resemblance to “how we really do things around here.” If someone were to randomly ask, “What are your company's Core Values?” – What would your people say? Many companies lack a Core Purpose beyond getting bigger and making more money. Does that really make your people want to get out of bed in the morning? Is it any wonder that research shows that more than 80% of employees are disengaged? Your BHAG will only be realized if it appeals to all your staff – not just the management team. Does everyone on your team know what your BHAG is? Are they inspired by it? Are their quarterly strategic priorities aligned to its achievement? Even if leaders have done a good job of clarifying these three fundamental success factors (and, in our experience, this is rare), the next challenge is to ensure that they are well-communicated and executed. The key is to make them simple and easy for everyone in your company to understand and remember. Here are some tips from the book Awesomely Simple by John Spence to help you bring your company vision to life:


Survey team members about their awareness and attitudes toward your Core Values, Core Purpose, and BHAG. Ask if these three key elements are meaningful to them and whether people are engaged by them.

Involve your entire team in refining these three key elements, so you get team buy-in.

Once finalized, display them on your website, posters, plaques, banners, mouse pads, screen savers, and so on.

Ensure they are the foundation of all strategic plans.

Pillar 1: Vision |

Discuss them during your weekly meetings wherever possible.

Formally recognize team members who exemplify the Core Values.

Refuse to tolerate any violation of the Core Values.

As Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, said, “Make an honest mistake, screw up a project, lose a million dollars on a risky business bet…no problem, we can fix that. But violate the Core Values, and you’re gone immediately.”


Pillar 1: Vision |

Pillar 2: Strategy What is strategy again? Many companies think they have a strategy, but usually all they have done is a meaningless exercise in financial goal setting. Goal setting is important – but setting numerical targets is not a strategy. We all want to grow – but growth is not a strategy. We all want to improve our businesses – but improvement is not a strategy. We all want to be more efficient – but efficiency is not a strategy. Yes, we want to be better than our competitors – but beating our competitors is not a strategy. Bigger, better, faster, and cheaper: none of these is a strategy! Remind me about strategy Strategy is about understanding how your industry is likely to play out, and getting very clear on the key strategic moves your company needs to make to position itself for future success in your industry. There are profound changes occurring in many industries. Are you going to be one of the casualties or one of the success stories? Your industry will have both. Which one will you be? Strategy means choosing the right actions to ensure your future success. You need to understand the forces that will likely have an impact on your industry. Then you make clear choices about how you are going to compete and how you will make money in the future. You choose which customers you are going to focus on, and how you will position and deliver your offering in a way that makes you meaningfully different from your competitors. You choose which activities you are going to perform and which activities you will say no to. You cannot be everything to everybody. A real strategy forces you to make trade-offs. Consider this quote from Warren Buffet: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.” Steve Jobs echoes this sentiment: “I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do.” Only when you have a clear strategy that is well-communicated throughout your company will you and your staff know exactly which things to say yes to and which things to say no to. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if everyone keeps on “chasing squirrels”. What do you need to stop doing – or just say no to?


Pillar 2: Strategy |

Do you have a winning strategy for the future? "If you don't have a competitive advantage, don't compete." – Jack Welch The pace of change is such that many industries are being transformed seemingly overnight, and in many cases, entire new industries are being created. According to science-fiction writer William Gibson, "The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended upon the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. Once I knew the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.” Failing to ask the "proper questions" on a regular basis leads many firms caught on the back foot with obsolete business models. The signs of emerging future trends are all around us, but, sadly, too many firms fail to lift their heads out of their day-to-day operations to address them, unaware that they may be walking down a blind alley. It is vital to conduct a disciplined strategic analysis (at least once a year) to understand the trends and their future implications for your industry, and to identify the key strategic moves you must make in order to survive and thrive in the future. Some of the key factors to be considered include: The business model According to IBM, for your business model to be of value in the future, it must have three core elements: 1. A unique strategic position that defines who you are 2. A strong grasp of future market trends and the strategic moves you need to make to navigate them 3. A high level of profitability – either a lower cost base than competitor firms, or a highly differentiated offering that cannot be easily copied


Pillar 2: Strategy |

Business model innovation Booz & Co. describes three types of business model innovation: 1. “Market Readers” (Operational Excellence) These companies focus on incremental change by keeping pace with proven market trends, and are able to maintain superior profits by conducting business on a larger scale and with greater cost efficiencies than competitors. An example: McDonald’s, with their move to healthy food choices and espresso coffee. 2. “Need Seekers” (Customer Intimacy) These companies continually research their target market customers to ask them what they want, and develop new products and services based on the customer needs they identify. For instance, Penske (a truck rental firm) expects every manager at every level, including the CEO, to call at least 10 customers every week. 3. “Technology Drivers” (Product Leadership) Most customers cannot imagine the future beyond their existing experiences. These companies seek to lead their customers into the future via new technology. An example is Apple, with their track record of being first to market with new product innovations. The five competitive forces that shape industries An excellent framework for strategic analysis can be found in Michael Porter's five forces model: • • • • •

Rivalry between existing competitors The threat of new entrants The threat of substitution The bargaining power of suppliers The bargaining power of buyers

Companies must regularly evaluate their strategic position relative to trends in each of these five forces and choose the appropriate strategic moves to maintain a competitive advantage. Amazon – first with its online store, then its move into Kindle e-readers and, more recently, into Kindle applications that enable reading to occur on any device – is a good example of a company that seems to understand how these forces play out.


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Macro forces – P.E.S.T. It is also important to look at broad, macro level forces, and at how changes in these factors can impact your firm: 

Political factors (e.g., laws and regulations, government actions)

Economic factors (e.g., growth rates, interest rates, customer purchasing power)

Social factors (e.g., demographic trends, changes in people’s behaviors, attitudes, preferences)

Technology factors (e.g., the pace of technology change is accelerating. Do you REALLY understand the implications of the word "accelerate"?)

Based on the factors outlined above, how sure are you that you have a winning strategy for the future?

A business is more effective when it is more selective This quote comes from Peter Drucker, who also asserted, “Most businesses try to accomplish far too much. They lose concentration and give in to the temptation of trying to be all things to all people.” “If what looks like an opportunity does not advance the strategic goal of the institution, it is not an opportunity. It is a distraction.” More Drucker: “Economic results require that staff efforts be concentrated on the few activities that are capable of producing significant business results. Managers must minimize the amount of attention devoted to activities which produce primarily costs." Peter Drucker also coined the term “purposeful abandonment.” He argued that the best way for a company to grow is to first stop doing what’s not working – that is, abandon projects that fail to deliver results; abandon products and services that fail to increase profits; abandon people who fail to make worthwhile contributions to the company. “In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the distractions.” Similarly, in the book Good to Great, Jim Collins recommended a “stop-doing list.” He wrote, “Take a look at your desk. If you're like most hard-charging leaders, you've got a well-articulated to-do list. Now take another look: Where's your stop-doing list?. Those who built the good-to-great companies made as much use of ‘stop-doing’ lists as ‘to-do’ lists.


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Both Drucker and Collins agree – you must avoid distractions.

Smart organizations identify and relentlessly focus on their core activities, while ignoring and eliminating those activities and investments that are distractions. These smart organizations will not only survive this recession, but will thrive when the economy invariably turns around. Those who ignore the advice of these two business greats do so at their peril. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best: “I cannot give you a formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.”

Do you have a clearly communicated strategic plan? Research in the UK by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS), showed that employers are still failing to communicate their business plans – and are missing out on fully engaging their employees as a result. In the survey, only 24% of employees said their managers had clearly articulated the strategic plan for their company. Even more worrying, 32% of employees doubted that their managers had a plan for their business at all! Perhaps as a result of this, only 27% of employees said they felt fully prepared for the challenges they would face at work in the year ahead. Has your company clarified and communicated your strategic plan for the next year and beyond? Prove it!


Pillar 2: Strategy |

Ask your people the following six questions. The quality and consistency of their answers will provide you with a quick reality check on how effectively you are leading your people: 

What are our company's Core Values?

What does our company do (our Strategic Position in the marketplace)?

What is the number-one benefit we offer our customers (our Brand Promise)?

What is the long-term ambitious goal (BHAG) we want to achieve in the future?

What are the key Strategic Moves we need to make in order to achieve our goal?

What are the top three Action Priorities we need to implement this coming quarter?

How well did your team answer these questions? Are you happy with the outcome?

Pillar 3: Engagement How to interview and hire A-Players. Before interviewing a candidate for any role in your company, it is vital that you follow a sound, world-class recruiting process. That’s where an approach like the Topgrading methodology has made a huge difference. Studies have shown that the way most people conduct their recruiting, the hiring manager will only successfully hire an “A” Player 25% of the time. Not good enough! Whereas, if you follow this disciplined hiring methodology, you can increase your hiring success rate to 90%. So if you want less stress, more sleep, and better company performance, those latter odds make a lot of sense. It starts with filling out a Role Scorecard for the position, and using that as the basis for the job advertisement. Then you asked each candidate to fill out a Career History Form rather than looking at resumes. This step filters out the “tire kickers,” and gets the candidate to provide exactly what information is needed. – When all candidates have filled out this form, it’s easier to compare "like with like."


Pillar 3: Engagement |

Now, there are three types of interviews that you need to conduct: 1. Phone Screening Interview (1 hour) 2. Face to Face Tandem Interview (at least one highly structured, three-hour interview) 3. Reference Check Interviews (with the people you specify) We don’t have the space to go into the full details of each interviewing step – but here are the key principles: We dig for the truth We want the real truth, and we let the candidates know that we will seek verification for all claims they make. We ask for tangible evidence of their individual performance. We ask for their permission and assistance to contact previous bosses, colleagues, and employees. We specify the people we want to speak with (hint – they’re not the “friends” listed on their resumes). If there were any previous issues with past jobs, we want these to come out as soon as possible, and to be discussed openly and honestly. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance

We ask for precise examples of where they exhibited the desired behavioral competencies (as listed on the Role Scorecard) in their past jobs. For instance: 

Describe a time in your previous role when you . . . (e.g., dealt with a dissatisfied customer).

What was the situation?

Who was involved?

What exactly did they do? What did they say?

What exactly did YOU do? (Not what “we” or “the team” did.)

What was the outcome?

What lessons did you learn from this?

We are most interested in:


What actions candidates (as individuals) took in past situations

What tangible (and verifiable) results they achieved

What mistakes they made and what they learned from them

Pillar 3: Engagement |

What their bosses, colleagues, and employees would say about them

We are NOT interested in: 

What “we” or “the team” did

What they might do in some hypothetical situation

True A-Player candidates will not be put off by any of this. They will have verifiable stories where they demonstrated the behavioral competencies you seek. They provide tangible evidence of results. They willingly furnish you with the names of bosses, colleagues, and employees (that you specify) for you to speak to. They have nothing to hide and can back up everything they say. Are you worthy? Now you need to take a look in the mirror. Are you worthy of them? Ask yourself: 

Can you honestly provide the tools, training, systems, mentoring, and support they will need to perform to an A-Player level in this role?

Do you provide a fun and challenging environment that allows them to thrive and grow?

Are you an A-Player manager yourself? Can you prove it?

Managers – tell your people where they stand A study published by Harvard Business Review (HBR) looked at the impact of management feedback on employee productivity. The study showed that when managers give feedback to their employees on a regular basis –whether it is positive or negative – the ongoing feedback leads to improved performance. Give regular feedback The first big lesson is: Don’t wait until a performance review to let an employee know how they are doing. Managers should consistently tell their employees where they stand. Performance should be made clearly visible (execution software is great for this) so the whole team can see how everyone is tracking in real time. Also, it is vital that managers meet one-on-one with each of their people (ideally once a week) to discuss their progress.


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Be direct Your feedback needs to be specific, objective, and frequent. You must comment directly about the employee’s tangible progress on goals or about behaviors you have directly observed. Interestingly, different types of feedback vary in their impact – and in ways you might not expect: 

Feedback that compares a worker’s performance to colleagues’ performance (the peer pressure effect) leads to productivity improvement.

Direct negative feedback (“You are below standard for this Key Performance Indicator”) leads to productivity improvement.

Direct positive feedback (“Well-done for achieving your target for this KPI”) does little to boost productivity.

Indirect positive feedback (“You are doing a good job”) does not affect productivity.

Indirect negative feedback (“You are not performing well”) worsens productivity.

The next big lesson is counterintuitive: Positive reviews do little to boost productivity. Negative reviews that are vague and indirect reduce performance; reviews that are negative, but specific, cause productivity to soar! We recommend using business execution software to make performance visible, to show how employees compare in their performance. Without your needing to say anything, these tools can invoke the powerful emotion of shame in those who aren’t making the grade. It does not sound politically correct, but shame is a powerful motivator; studies clearly show that it invokes higher levels of performance. Let the software communicate this message for you. No one likes being at the bottom of the table. Yes, we do believe giving praise is important (and most managers probably do not praise their people enough), but it seems that when managers directly confront poor performance, it has the highest impact on productivity of all. Unfortunately, many managers shy away from this type of feedback because it can involve confrontation. Who do you need to be direct with today?


Pillar 3: Engagement |

Do you know what is expected of you at work? defines an “A-Player” as a person who consistently exceeds the performance standards required for his or her role, and who demonstrates all your company’s Core Values. If both these requirements are met, this individual is the role model for your culture. Unfortunately, surveys show that most employees cannot strongly agree with the simple statement, “I know what is expected of me at work.” This is the manager’s fault for not providing a Role Scorecard that clearly outlines these expectations in the first place. Holding people accountable for performance is very difficult when you have not been crystal clear, right from the outset, on exactly what the employee will be held accountable for. We recommend using a Role Scorecard in place of a traditional job description. The scorecard format forces you to capture the essence of the role on one page. Every functional role in a company (including the CEO) should have a Role Scorecard that contains the following three items: 1. Key Duties & Accountabilities What are the critical duties or actions that need to be carried out, to the agreed standard, in the current quarter? Here you list (and rank in priority order) the most important tasks that the person in this role needs to perform – as well as the desired outcomes. Emphasize “what” needs to be done, not “how.” For some roles the key duties may be constant every quarter.. Role Scorecards should be updated every quarter to ensure they remain relevant to what the person is expected to be doing currently.

2. Key Performance Indicators Every role should have a KPI. What one or two numbers will the employee be held strictly accountable for every month? Employees must know how their performance will be scored and be willing to be held responsible for achieving those specified results. The KPI measures are usually constant every quarter, but the threshold for an A-Player level of performance may change based on growth requirements or seasonal factors. These, too, should be reviewed every quarter.


Pillar 3: Engagement |

3. Core Values These apply to every role in your company. These are the rules for behavior, unique to your firm, that everyone is expected to demonstrate. No exceptions! They’re not the typical empty platitudes you see on the wall of a corporate foyer, but the real “way we do things around here,” expressed in words that mean something to all your people. Preparing and updating Role Scorecards every quarter enables the manager to have a meaningful one-onone meeting with employees at the beginning of every quarter to ensure both parties are very clear on what is expected and on how performance will be measured at the end of the quarter. Holding people accountable becomes so much easier when expectations are clear. Having Role Scorecards posted on the wall where all can see keeps everyone very clear about what they need to be focusing on. Do you know what is expected of you at work? Have you captured this, on one page, for every role in your company?


Pillar 3: Engagement |

Pillar 4: Accountability How do you hold people accountable? Accountability is one of the major pillars of effective business execution. It’s not about your people working hard or being busy. It’s about everyone doing the right things that will move their area of the business forward – in line with the company’s strategic priorities. Strategic priorities People are more engaged and productive when they clearly understand the specific strategic priorities they are personally accountable for executing each quarter, and when they can clearly track their execution progress. Execution software tools are ideal for this purpose. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) A major key to effective business execution is to identify your KPIs and to measure, on a weekly basis, the small handful of "predictive measures" that will ultimately be reflected in positive outcomes on your monthly financial statements. Effective companies use dashboards to graphically and publicly display their KPI numbers every week. This forces everyone on the team to confront reality, and it visually drives accountability for results. Seats on the bus If your business could be described as being like a bus, what are the key seats on your bus? That is, what are the key functional roles on your team? Two common problems are often identified: 1. Do you have someone who is sitting in too many seats – performing too many roles and not doing justice to them all? 2. Do you have roles where more than one person is trying to squeeze into the same seat? Many people can contribute, but – if you want to drive accountability – only one person can be accountable for overall performance in each role.


Pillar 4: Accountability |

Performance standards Do you know what’s expected of you in your role? Is it measurable? Every role should have one objective number that measures performance. This number should be tracked and made visible every week, or at least every month. All employees should know how they are performing, and whether or not they are doing a good job.

Accountability is meaningless without consequences Without a doubt, the most stressful times for many managers is dealing with poorly performing employees. What follows is an approach to help you turn things around for the better. Building a high performance team starts with looking in the mirror and asking yourself some tough questions: Did you follow a disciplined hiring process and hire the right person in the first place? Does your company have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, how you behave (Core Values), and a compelling reason why you are doing this (Core Purpose)? Does your company have a winning strategy in place that will set up everyone on the team for future success? Does every person have clear priorities and key performance indicators that he or she is accountable for? Have you provided your team members with the tools, training, and support they need to take full ownership of their roles and to do a good job? Are you holding them firmly accountable for meeting the performance standards for their roles every month? If you can hand-on-heart answer yes to all these questions, but you still feel that the employee is the problem, my friend John Spence refers to his “3-Ts” approach: “Train, Transfer or Terminate.” Here is my take: People do things for their reasons, not yours. Ask yourself: What is driving their behavior? How can you align their interests with the company’s interests? How can you make high performance at work something that truly motivates them? At your weekly one-on-one meeting with your team members (you do have one, don’t you?), try asking the following questions of an employee who seems to be struggling: 1. What support do you need from me in order to achieve your goals? 2. What sort of reward do you think you should get if you do achieve your goals? 3. What should the ramifications be if you cannot achieve your goals?


Pillar 4: Accountability |

Typically, the reward they ask for will be something you can both agree on – and it doesn’t have to be money. Evidence suggests that intrinsic motivating factors like mastery (seeing progress), autonomy (the ability to choose “how” to achieve the goal), and purpose (a compelling reason “why”) are more motivating than extrinsic rewards. Motivation is all well and good, but that does not negate the fact that there is a performance standard that needs to be reached in all roles. Accountability is meaningless without consequences. It is important that both manager and employee agree what the positive consequences and negative consequences for performance are.

Business execution software is a great tool for objectively measuring everyone’s progress every step of the way. Everyone on the team can see those who are not performing, and it makes facilitating the removal of nonperformers from the team so much easier. There are no surprises. In fact, people who are unable to make the grade tend to leave remove themselves with this approach. On the plus side, everyone on the whole team can see who your A-Players are, and it also makes acknowledging and recognizing their good performance so much easier.

The benefits of Key Performance Indicators Most companies try to set clear numerical targets or goals. However, they seldom do a good job of measuring progress toward them. Unfortunately, very few companies are good at setting and tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), the small handful of predictive measures that will ultimately drive goal achievement. Nor do they do a good job of holding people accountable for their achievement. The book Transforming Performance Measurement describes the benefits of Key Performance Indicators. The use of KPIs…:


Pillar 4: Accountability |

Directs people’s behaviors Most employees operate on the following assumption: “Tell me how you measure me, and I will show you how I behave.” Makes performance visible You can only manage what you measure. Keeping the scores visible, where everyone can see them, shows you how well the various parts of the business are working, and who is performing and who is not. Focuses attention What gets measured gets done. Employees are faced with many competing demands on their time and resources. Knowing the one or two numbers that their performance will be measured against keeps them focused on doing the right things – particularly when that is linked to reward/consequence systems. Clarifies expectations Prioritizing a small handful of KPIs and numerical targets or goals enables managers to communicate their expectations to employees in a clear and unambiguous manner. Provides objectivity Data enables you to “manage by fact.” Evaluating employee performance is not about whether people are working hard or being busy. What did they actually achieve? Improves execution Larry Bossidy, co-author of the book Execution, remarked, “When I see companies that don’t execute, the chances are that they don’t measure.” Promotes consistency Activities and outcomes that are not measured properly tend to fluctuate – with negative implications for the quality of your results. Provides clear feedback Holding people accountable for achieving their target level of performance every week/month is vital to ensure the company (and individual) is on the right track.


Pillar 4: Accountability |

Improves decision making One of the major causes of failure in decision making is poor use of data. One accurate measure can be worth a thousand opinions. Promotes understanding Quality guru W. Edwards Deming said that systematic process measurement leads to the “profound knowledge� that is essential to top-quality outcomes. One final tip: KPIs should be graphed to show trends, and the scores should be color-coded, so they can be easily understood at a glance: Green = Good. Exceeds target level of performance. Praise and recognize the person accountable. Yellow = OK. Minimum acceptable threshold. Get an explanation and keep a close eye on it. Red = Bad. Unacceptable performance. Urgent attention required.



Pillar 5: Cadence Are you taking the right action every week? Let us imagine that you have just updated your strategic plan at the end of the quarter, and you are about to dive into your next 90-day sprint with clear strategic priorities to be implemented in your company by the end of the coming quarter. While you may have a desire to accomplish many things, we have learned time and time again that “less is more” when it comes to strategy execution. Ideally, you should choose no more than three strategic priorities for the quarter. It is better to do less and do it well, than to take on too many things and spread yourself too thin. Focus on less to achieve more. As a leader, your aim is for everyone on your team to finish the quarter with a sense of satisfaction and achievement. You want everyone to say, “We nailed our key milestones” – rather than having a whole lot of projects still up in the air, with your people still grinding away, day after day, never feeling the thrill of victory. You want the team to be able to pop the cork and celebrate their achievements at the end of every quarter, and not feel like failures. Even if you have carefully chosen a limited number of projects to focus on, the key to strategy execution success is to ensure your people are taking the right actions each and every week that will ensure that each of their individual projects are completed on time. Everyone has a huge “to-do” list, but what is the “one thing”? What is the one tangible, bite-sized action they can complete this week that will move each project forward? If they can just get that one thing done – that is the secret to strategic execution. Anything else they may accomplish during the week is a bonus, but everyone must know what their one thing relating to each project is. In many cases, this also means being able to say no to anything else that comes up, and you should protect your people from distractions. Strategy execution is not about working hard or being busy. It is about everyone taking the right action – each and every week – and nailing that one thing. Leaders must follow up at every weekly meeting and hold each of their people firmly accountable: “Did you complete what you said you were going to do last week to move your project forward?” Leaders must encourage, motivate, and reward those people who take the right actions and complete them every week.


Pillar 5: Cadence |

If you let one person off the hook, it lowers the performance bar for everyone else; it means people are allowed to break their promises to you. It can also mean that entire projects are held up by one person who does not play his or her part. The whole team experiences a preventable failure because you did not hold people accountable. If you let someone hold the team back, the failure is yours to own. You did not do your job. When you are the leader, you only win when your team wins. This quarter, what are you going to do differently to make sure you and your team win?

Management, one-on-one Weekly team meetings are vital for sharing information, making decisions, and aligning your team for strategy execution – but the subtleties of each individual’s personal needs cannot be fully addressed in a team meeting. A key success discipline that great managers practice is to schedule a regular, weekly, one-on-one meeting with each of their direct reports. This is a brief meeting with a specific agenda. Other meetings (including casual conversations/coffees/brainstorming) that you have with a team member during the week are all good, but do not replace the one-on-one meeting. That’s because the management one-on-one meeting is focused solely on that individual and how you, as a manager, can best support him or her in the execution of current strategic priorities. Yes, it takes time to have one-on-one meetings with your team members. Like many success habits, this falls into the “important” but “not urgent” category. It takes discipline to stick to a regular one-on-one meeting schedule – but the payoffs for both parties are worth the effort. Schedule it in both your calendars and make it happen. Some suggestions to make it work:


Establish an agenda and time limit, and stick to them. Keep the meeting brief and focused.

Both parties must come to the meeting prepared with the updated information you need to discuss the current reality.

Briefly discuss each project they are accountable for and get a status update. Are they on schedule to have it completed by the due date?

Pillar 5: Cadence |

Briefly discuss each Key Performance Indicator they are responsible for and get a status update. The score doesn’t lie. What is happening here?

Ask them what tangible action they will complete this week to move things forward or to address any issues that have been identified. Confirm that you both agree with the chosen action and capture this in writing (that is, enter it as one of their tasks).

Ask them what support or resources they need from you to help them succeed in this task.

Ask if there are any other issues that they would like to raise. How are they feeling? What’s going on in their lives right now?

Share any issues or feelings you would like to raise. Performance reviews are not an annual thing. Let your people know every week how they are performing, and demonstrate your commitment to helping them succeed.

Finish on a high note. Find something they are doing well and acknowledge it.

Do you conduct weekly one-on-one meetings with your direct reports? Give it a try. You may find it will help both parties to better understand each other and stay focused on the important issues – all of which can greatly improve your business execution.


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