Execution without Measurement is Hallucination
by Arnaud Henneville, Apr 14 2016
Around the globe and for decades now, business leaders have been embracing Thomas Edison’s adage to the letter. And it worked – until now. In recent years, indeed, many people have been playing the ‘blame game.’ We’ve all heard “it’s the VP who failed at cascading,” or “it’s managers who failed to deliver the gospel at their own local levels” or “it’s employees who failed to engage with the all-too-brilliant strategy.”
More elegantly framed, it is the misalignment between the grand vision emanating from the pundits at the top and the grunts’ capabilities that have been the culprits for this failure to execute. Quite simply, execution without measurement is hallucination.
Our work with some of the world’s largest corporations has exposed this truth: it is not necessarily because of ‘misalignment’ that initiatives fail to execute well. But rather, it is the lack of wholeheartedness on the one hand, and the lack of yardsticks when measuring success on the other, that are truly responsible for today’s disastrous implementation success rate.
Here are three takeaways based on our work with industry leaders. These, I hope, will help any manager increase the odds of succeeding in future roll-outs.
Create a Success-driven Culture
Clearly, a manager may ‘execute’ as much as she wants and people may have all the capabilities in the world required to make it happen. But unless employees unequivocally engage themselves in the life of their organizations, not much will happen.
In today’s environment where ‘employee engagement’ is both a discretionary effort and a prerequisite to an organization’s success, executives have no choice but to foster a culture whereby employees feel excited about the vision and are rewarded by its accomplishment.
Take away: Open-up your organization and witness what transparency brings
Get Traction Early-on and Keep Going
Let’s face it, once the project, the new strategy, the change initiative, etc is initiated, traction on the ground is needed. Because unless boots start marching the nicely crafted and packaged roll-out won’t happen.
Often associated with the hip and trendy of Silicon Valley, ‘traction’ is not a fantasy that belongs to the realm of Unicorns. Traction is real and it is for everybody – mature companies included. The problem though is that while all, now successful, businesses have undeniably experienced traction at some point, the whole notion tends to dilute over time as companies grow in size and complexity. The reason for this phenomenon is simple; the more settled the company is, the more complicated it becomes to part cause and effect. The good news is when it comes to strategy execution, a human endeavor, ‘traction’ is directly correlated to people’s demonstrated commitment – something visible through the myriad of daily tangible, measurable individual actions – some essentials others less so.
Take away: Your strategy is as good as what people are willing to do with it
Data Don’t Lie
Until recently, execution was often left to chance. One would launch an initiative, take the pulse along the way and hope that down the road some measurable changes in behaviors could be witnessed and led to concrete business results. With today’s prevalence of data though, executives across the board should have no excuses not to be following, in real-time, how their implementation unfolds. Today indeed everyone is technically capable of recognizing trends early on, spotting potential problem areas, troubleshooting ‘on the go’, and in some extreme cases even aborting implementation altogether before it spirals out of control and engulfs unnecessary resources.
To succeed at implementation these days, whether one is rolling-out a new brand, activating a sales network, engaging an entire organization around some new core principles – or whatever the business purpose may be – one needs to be able to assess progress against concrete metrics.
Take away: You cannot improve what you cannot measure
Our work with global industry leaders has highlighted that execution alone is no longer sufficient for success. Instead successful companies will be those that manage to create a success-driven culture, focus on getting traction early-on and ensuring people keep up the momentum. The only way to achieve this means being able to measure progress in real-time against concrete business metrics.