Strategy and execution must work together.
I had the chance to have a talk with Chris McChesney at WOBI Milan, last November. Chris helps organizations achieve results through improved execution of strategy. His book – The 4 Disciplines of Execution – is about getting things done. Since I mostly work with Small and Medium Enterprises – which are 95% of Italian companies – I started our conversation asking if the Execution method is applicable to them as well.
Chris: «Leaders of SMEs have to wear a lot of hats and the day job becomes all consuming. They find there are important things they need to do to move their business forward, and they can’t get away from the operational reality. It’s hard for big companies, but it’s even harder for small companies. So you need discipline, to step away from urgency, and focus on strategic questions and strategic work. The strategic stuff feels urgent, sexy, cool, succeeding, but it doesn’t have you by the throat. The day job has you by the throat. So, it’s harder and probably more important for SMEs than even in the big companies».
Gabriele: «What I have experienced, consulting SMEs, is how difficult is for their leaders to understand the need for a strategy. But even more, to understand the need for a method to execute the strategic plan».
Chris: «I’m not an idea guy. I don’t know how I ended up with execution, but, I made it because I needed it. The execution model makes sure that what your strategy is executable. So it may challenge you, if you are putting too many things on one person, or if you are too broad or too general. It will push you to create a model that is more executable. Most people think that day-to-day is execution. It’s not. The ability to deliberately play out the strategic hypothesis it’s the only way they start moving forward. Sometimes the strategic hypothesis is wrong, or little wrong, but you have to know that, you have to work through the mistakes before you get the right answer. And you have to execute awesomely. Not perfect hypothesis, complex answers. Really brilliant strategies are not thought upon a whiteboard. That’s a myth. They are always the byproduct of trial and error – quoting Tim Harford, economist. Good execution is a mechanism for accelerating the trial and error».
Gabriele: «I like your 4 disciplines because is a method anyone can follow. It also involves gamification».
Chris: «Yes, gamification is a huge part of this. I started to notice that it needed to feel like a game. And human beings bring a different level of creativity and energy when something does feel like a game, and there’s the idea that’s a winnable game. If I play it right, I know I can win, if my strategic plan is right».
Gabriele: «So, strategy and execution must work together».
Chris: «It’s not like strategy and execution exist separate from one another. There’s a strategic element to determine the lead measure, there’s a strategic element to determine my weekly commitment so, strategy and execution sort of do this dance, and that happens naturally».
Gabriele: «Strategy is about to know your things, execution is about to get those things done».
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