Executing Better Means Thinking Differently
Much of our current management mindset is rooted in management theory derived in the early 1900's. During that time the best management theorists developed a set of management models and leadership theories using a metaphor of the enterprise as a machine. The resulting mental framework functioned extremely well when enterprises were mostly independent factories making automobiles, trucks and tractors, refrigerators etc. But many of today's enterprises do not resemble a common factory. The machine metaphor has reached its useful limit and we are overdue to update our view of the enterprise. In the 1950’s, business schools adopted a relatively uniform approach to leadership and management referred to in many ways including "relevance with rigor." The combined effect of the machine metaphor and relevance with rigor has created a leadership mindset that has lost its relevance in leading effective organizations. Additionally, the stream of business books that have been written starting with a famous title In Search of Excellence were followed by decades of similar publications that made fundamental errors in their logic. Most of these books such as Good to Great, Built to Last, What Really Works, as well as the anecdotal work surrounding famous successes such as General Electric suggest that all you need do is copy the success patterns of the companies and individuals lauded in the book and the same results will be available to you. As Philip Rosenzweig pointed out in his book The Halo Effect, the fundamental flaw is called sampling on the dependent variable after the outcome is known which means working backward from successful results toward the underpinning reason. The flaw in this thinking essentially boils down to making the fundamental error of connecting correlation to causation. That is to say what worked for Jack Welch may be disastrous for you. So what are we to do? If patterning our decisions around what apparently worked for someone else won't work for us then what should we use to create a more effective pattern of action? That is the value of the ideas in Executing Your Strategy and is why you should read the book.
The Strategic Execution Framework
The strategic execution framework provides a new way to view information that has been well researched well documented and well understood for decades. What's new and what is useful is the idea of drawing a visual representation of the interconnected elements that make up what might be called the moving parts of the enterprise. This model has been shown to be truly powerful on a number of levels. Individuals have used it to redesign decisions to create their own individual success. Teams have used it to find critical improvements in their performance and enterprises have used it to realign strategies and lead transformation. When the framework is understood and the context of a given organization is applied to it, what becomes clear is where the leverage is for making substantial improvements in the organization's performance.
Who Should Read This Book
This book was written to be applicable to managers at multiple levels. The book is intended to illuminate the challenges of strategy making for middle managers, and the challenges of strategy execution for senior managers. This will create a bilingual conversation between them that has been sorely lacking in the past.
Senior executives will be most interested in the chapters on Ideation, Nature, Vision, and Engagement. These chapters show how to shape a coherent purpose, identity and long range vision to distinguish an organization from its peers; and how to communicate a strategy that is aligned with the organization’s purpose, identity and long-range vision crisply, to guide day-to-day investments of time and resources by mangers at all level of the organization. Senior executives can also benefit from reading the later chapters on Synthesis and Transition to gain a better understanding of the alignment issues that challenge middle managers attempting to execute their strategies.
Project managers, program managers and portfolio managers will find detailed guidance on strategy execution in the chapters on Engagement, Synthesis and Transition. The value of reading the chapters on Ideation, Vision and Nature for this audience is to understand the challenges of crafting an effective and aligned strategy in a more nuanced way, so that they can better understand the ultimate strategic outcomes for the organization and the organization’s customers that their projects’ or program’s outputs are intended to generate.
The book does not have to be read in any particular order. And it does not need to be read in one sitting, or necessarily cover to cover. As we show in the later chapters, some of the best examples of effective strategic execution come from small teams and individuals. So the enterprise examples and large team examples have equal applicability to individuals. We have encountered people in our travels who have this model to be useful as a framework for one-on-one management coaching. However, we are not making a case for being all things to all people. The book is focused squarely toward middle to senior executives, with the idea that many of the concepts in this book are applicable to organizations of all sizes, ranging from the small teams that support individuals like Lance Armstrong to realize their aggressive goals, to CEOs of large global enterprises like Toyota, Airbus, Qualcomm or Google, and large government agencies like the Singapore National Library or the US Department of Homeland Security, seeking to execute bold new strategies through portfolios of strategic projects during turbulent times.