Results Driven by Execution

Published: 2021-09-10 18:25:10
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Category: Business

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The following pages will explain the discipline of execution, why it is so important today, and how it can differentiate extraordinary companies from ordinary companies. It will describe fundamental building blocks that need to be in place and what I have identified as the leader's personal priorities, the social software of culture change, and the leader's most important job of selecting and appraising people. There are three core processes discussed: people, strategy and operations and how to make them effective and how the practice of each process is linked to and integrated with the other two. The people process is discussed in length as this is the most important of the three. Done well, it results in a leadership gene pool that can conceive and shape executable strategies and convert them into operating plans and specific points of accountability. The strategic plan brings conceptual thinking to reality and tests its executability. It also links back to the people process. If the strategy proposed and its backup logic is clearly in sync with the realities of the marketplace, the economy, and the competition, then the people process has worked. Finally the operations process shows how to build block by block, an operating plan that will deliver the strategy. Both the strategy and operations plans link with the people process to test the match between organizational capabilities and what is required to execute the operating plan.

In 2007, forty CEOs of the top two hundred companies on Fortune's 500 list were removed- not retired but fired or made to resign. They were all highly regarded when they were appointed- they seemed to have all the right qualifications. But the reason they lost their jobs was because they couldn't or didn't deliver what they said they would. When 20 percent of the most powerful business leader in America lose their job, something is clearly wrong. This trend has continued and in such cases it's not just the CEO who suffers-so do the employees, partners, shareholders and even customers. And it's not just the CEO whose shortcomings create the problem, though of course he or she is ultimately held responsible.
What is the problem? Is it a rough business environment? Yes. Whether the economy is strong or weak, competition is fiercer than ever. Change comes fast and investors have turned unforgiving when companies don't deliver on their commitments. The most frequent explanation is that the CEO's strategy was wrong. But the strategy by itself is not often the cause. Strategies most often fail because they aren't executed well. Things that were supposed to happen don't happen. Either the organizations aren't capable of making them happen or the leaders of the business misjudge the challenges their companies face in the business environment or both.
Every one talks about change. In recent years, a small industry of changemesters has preached revolution, invention and quantum change, breakthrough thinking, audacious goals, learning organizations and the like. I'm not necessarily debunking this stuff, but unless you translate big thoughts into concrete steps for action they're pointless. Without execution, the breakthrough thinking breaks down, learning adds no value, people don't meet their goals and revolution steps dead in its tracks. What you get is change for the worse, because failure drains the energy from your organization. Repeated failure destroys it. These days we're hearing a more practical phrase on the lips of business leaders. They're talking about taking their organizations to the "next lever," which brings the rhetoric down to earth.

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