Whether you work in human resources (as I do), or in communications, finance, innovation… whatever the department, it is important to understand the perspective of posts with a more strategic role in the management of the company. For, though every person in the company is of strategic importance, our vision of strategy tends to be limited and so we sometimes ask ourselves: “What makes us different?” “How are managers recruited?”, or “Why is a particular process carried out in the way it is?”
The book Execution: The discipline of getting things done, by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy, is one of those best sellers that you pick up at the airport and make you forget exactly how it was that you got from the boarding gate to your destination… or the turbulence on the flight which made you dizzy while reading. When I got the book I thought it would be a simple, entertaining read. But that was far from being the case. The book explains what companies are all about, their complexity, the many changing variables, and the challenge we all face: how to make things happen. Even in contexts where priorities are very clear and the environment is stable (is there even such a thing?), distractions may easily prevent us from reaching our objectives.
In this book, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan provide a detailed explanation with a very real perspective of why strategies many times do not work, and how quality execution, done quickly, can become a competitive advantage which is impossible for the competition to copy.
There are three core elements to a business strategy
- Having the right strategy. Well, that’s a good one… We could even say one that speaks for itself, although many times it doesn’t. A large number of companies (or rather, many people within companies) become expert internal managers while totally forgetting what goes on in the business itself: competition, regulators, other sectors. They also forget to check whether objectives are realistic, or too conservative, whether they are short term or not, or simply unfeasible.Note: Strategy is better constructed as a team; diversity in perspective always serves to improve proposals.
- People: the right person in the right job at the right time. As easy to say as it is difficult to put in practice. So every business leader must have this as a top priority. Forward-looking, identifying any existing gaps and doing something about them. And every company must have the necessary processes in place for this to become its normal way of working.
- Operations: in many contexts, quantifiable objectives are excellently set. Let’s call this the What. What is often missing, however (probably as a result of the first two points set out above), is the How. The most obvious example has been provided by functions such as business intelligence, which previously were excellent at explaining the past but incapable of determining the market variables which could turn a product into a leader or a failure, and take the necessary steps in each scenario. It has been a while now since this has changed.
The importance of knowing your business
What I appreciate most about Execution: The discipline of getting things done is its realism. Every single person within an organisation must be aware of how important it is to know your competitive environment, to contribute to the strategy, and to help make things happen.
And when you are a people manager, responsibility increases, with the following to do’s being added to the ones above:
- Be realistic
- Set clear objectives and priorities
- Provide follow-up
- Reward those who achieve
- Build the capacity of your team
- Know yourself
And to all this I would add: enjoy! Enjoy doing a good job, enjoy knowing that you are on the right track, with a good basis, and a good strategy. It’s not all about managers and individual achievement. We all have our own areas of responsibility in which we must all make our own decisions in order to contribute to… continuous improvement.