Closing the Execution Gap

By Stephen R. Covey, Ph.D., the co-founder and vice chairman of Franklin Covey, a leading global professional services firm. Stephen is also the author of the best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

There is a vast “execution gap” in most organizations that causes many crucial initiatives and change efforts to fail. The execution gap is a human issue that has little to do with market strategy, technology or executive leadership. Several months ago, Franklin Covey asked 11,000 people in the U.S. workforce to tell us about their execution discipline. If the typical organization is like this, execution is obviously at high risk. To close the gap, organizations must practice these four disciplines of execution.

Focus On the Wildly Important Goals
People are genetically wired to focus on one thing at a time. Nevertheless, we ask employees to “multitask,” which results in frustrated workers and poor results. The leader’s job is to make the “wildly important” goals crystal clear to get everyone focused. When I watch the security people at the airport process passengers, I am impressed with their courtesy and efficiency. However, if one terrorist gets through the system and disaster results, the courtesy and efficiency counts for little. This is because these workers have one wildly important goal that must be achieved. Therefore, it is crucial that everyone agree on what is “wildly important,” and then focus on it.

Create a Scoreboard
People can know the goal, but if they don’t know the score, they are working in the dark. Imagine going to a football game without a scoreboard. It is imperative that everyone know the score at all the times in order to know what to do, because scoreboards motivate people. Therefore, the scoreboard must be created by, and be visible to, everyone. One firm I am acquainted with has a goal to save their customers a certain amount of money on their prescriptions at the year’s end. Every day, their progress toward this goal is posted so that no one questions what is “wildly important.” As a result, no one can take their eyes off of the score either.

Translate Goals into Action
Goals that have never been achieved require behaviors that have never been tried before. How often do leaders announce a new goal without giving thought to how it will be executed? I know a company that announced to every store in its retail chain to increase their sales revenue by 15 percent that fiscal year. Store managers and staff accepted the goal, but had no notion of how to execute it. In cases like this, leaders must involve the front line in defining what everyone must do differently to accomplish the new goal.

Engage the Team Weekly
It isn’t enough to meet once a year and decide what the work group is going to do. Re-engaging less than weekly causes the team to drift off course and lose focus. In the most effective teams, people meet weekly to account for their commitments, examine the scoreboard, resolve issues and decide how to support one another.

To learn more, contact Paola Moscatelli, Gerente de Relaciones Públicas, LEADERSHIP TECHNOLOGIES, INC., FranklinCovey LATAN, Chile y Caribe Occidental.

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