Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done - PCC - ebook

The book that shows how to get the job done and deliver results . . . whether you’re running an entire company or in your first management job Larry Bossidy is one of the world’s most acclaimed CEOs, a man with few peers who has a track record for delivering results. Ram Charan is a legendary advisor to senior executives and boards of directors, a man with unparalleled insight into why some companies are successful and others are not. Together they’ve pooled their knowledge and experience into the one book on how to close the gap between results promised and results delivered that people in business need today. After a long, stellar career with General Electric, Larry Bossidy transformed AlliedSignal into one of the world’s most admired companies and was named CEO of the year in 1998 by Chief Executive magazine. Accomplishments such as 31 consecutive quarters of earnings-per-share growth of 13 percent or more didn’t just happen; they resulted from the consistent practice of the discipline of execution: understanding how to link together people, strategy, and operations, the three core processes of every business. Leading these processes is the real job of running a business, not formulating a “vision” and leaving the work of carrying it out to others. Bossidy and Charan show the importance of being deeply and passionately engaged in an organization and why robust dialogues about people, strategy, and operations result in a business based on intellectual honesty and realism. The leader’s most important job—selecting and appraising people—is one that should never be delegated. As a CEO, Larry Bossidy personally makes the calls to check references for key hires. Why? With the right people in the right jobs, there’s a leadership gene pool that conceives and selects strategies that can be executed. People then work together to create a strategy building block by building block, a strategy in sync with the realities of the marketplace, the economy, and the competition. Once the right people and strategy are in place, they are then linked to an operating process that results in the implementation of specific programs and actions and that assigns accountability. This kind of effective operating process goes way beyond the typical budget exercise that looks into a rearview mirror to set its goals. It puts reality behind the numbers and is where the rubber meets the road.  Putting an execution culture in place is hard, but losing it is easy. In July 2001 Larry Bossidy was asked by the board of directors of Honeywell International (it had merged with AlliedSignal) to return and get the company back on track. He’s been putting the ideas he writes about in Execution to work in real time.

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Table of Contents

Main Idea: Execution

Part 1: The Importance of Execution

Part 2: The Three Building Blocks of Execution

Part 3: The Three Key Processes of Execution


Table of Contents


Main Idea


Execution – or more frequently, the lack of execution – is the biggest issue facing businesses today.

Execution is the gap between what a company promises and the results it actually achieves. Those companies which have a habit of executing well earn a substantial market value premium over firms that fail to meet expectations. There is always a significant financial premium attached to the ability to execute. Furthermore, companies that excel at execution are more robust and more favorably positioned to respond to rapid changes in the marketplace.

Importantly, however, execution is not simply a result. Execution is actually a discipline in its own right which links together three core processes: people, strategy and operations. To be able to execute consistently well, a business needs to have in place three key building blocks: leaders who are hands-on and who understand execution, a corporate culture which values execution highly and the right people in the right places.

Unless the right people focus on the right details at the right time, execution just won’t happen. Great leaders always know how to execute. They expound a corporate vision which is grounded squarely in reality rather than wishes.

Key Thoughts

“When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the CEO’s strategy was wrong. But the strategy by itself is not the cause. Strategies most often fail because they aren’t executed well. Things that are 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.” — Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Part 1

The Importance of Execution

Execution, as a concept, is very straightforward. It is quite simply the difference between what a business promises and what it achieves. This ability to deliver results and execute well can be the foundation for a strong and sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

By definition, execution is all about what you actually end up doing, not what you say you’re going to do in the future.

Having a great business strategy is helpful but ultimately the only thing that will count is what parts of the strategy get done. Execution is where “the rubber meets the road” figuratively for any business enterprise.

To understand execution, you need to keep in mind three points:

1Execution is not simply tactics but is a separate and distinct business discipline. As such, execution is an integral part of the business strategy.

Execution is about facing reality and then acting on it in some way that produces genuine benefits for the organization. To do that, the firm’s people must understand who is responsible for what, and how the results achieved will be evaluated and rewarded. This assignment of responsibilities and accountability for the results generated needs to be developed in an environment where robust debate is the norm rather than the exception. That is the only way the actual realities the business faces have any chance of coming to the surface.

2Execution must always be the main concern and focus of every business leader.

Organizations will execute consistently only if their leaders invest their whole heart and souls in actually running things themselves. Why? Because in practice, only the business leader and his or her senior management team have a comprehensive understanding of the business, its people and the environment in which it needs to operate. Or, to be more specific, leaders are the only people who can provide the substance of execution:

Picking other leaders.

Specifying the strategic direction to be followed.

Running operational units.

Providing expert feedback with wisdom and experience.

Asking the really tough questions everyone else avoids.

Setting the tone of dialogue within the organization.

Encouraging candid, reality-based debate.

Searching for realistic solutions.

Only a leader who is hands-on or intimately involved in the nitty-gritty details of the business will know enough to ask the incisive questions that everyone needs to answer but would prefer not to. This is the difference between “leading” an organization and “presiding” over one.

3To succeed, execution must be placed at the very core of the corporate culture.