People vs. Strategy in Flawless Execution

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Many books talk about the importance of strategizing. The typical argument is that without a solid strategy, it is almost impossible to execute flawlessly. This is true. However, it is not completely true.

Without good execution, a strategy is merely a plan or, even, a wish. Moreover, a good execution heavily depends on the people who work, fight, defend, and innovate strategically. Therefore, a strategy can only result in flawless execution if it is matched with people who are skillful, focused, and willing to make things happen. To ensure flawless execution, there are at least five things that a leader must be aware of and cultivate. A combination of all those three elements is key to make progress. Ideally, all team members are in a “hyper” state, which is a laser-sharp focused state with minimal or, even, zero distraction, when working on these elements with the leader. First, strategy execution is not about communicating and knowing; it is about doing things with awareness. While it may sound like a New Age thing, awareness is a learnable skill. When you are aware enough that what you know is different from what you do, you can make much progress based on that information. As a leader, it is your job to ensure that team members are working in alignment with others and with their belief about the goal. Second, internalize the “big arrow,” which is the ultimate goal. This arrow would serve as the roadmap of the execution, like a GPS or a Google Map. Frequently remind the team that there are milestones to reach and obstacles to solve and they should not get distracted. Coach team members to return to this “roadmap” whenever their focus shifts and internalize its core idea. When the team members truly believe in the concept, they become more confident in execution. Third, identify impactful key individuals. Some team members are more impactful than others, perhaps due to their technical, operational, or managerial skills. Alternatively, simply because they are just more charismatic than others. Pay close attention to how they execute ideas, as they might have some unique positions to accelerate the speed of flawless execution. Whenever appropriate, give them specific roles where their strengths can be optimized for the whole team. Fourth, maintain transparency. Transparency is key in building trust. Be open about data and statistics. Share with the team in regular meetings. Praise them when the progress shows a promising future and provide feedback on how to improve whenever the data shows otherwise. Addressing issues before things explode out of proportion is another challenge for a leader in ensuring a flawless execution. Fifth, amplify performance with 80-20 Pareto rule. Recognize which activities work and which don’t. Use 80-20 Pareto Principle, so you can clearly discern the 20 “working” ones and the other 80 “not working.” Keep and duplicate those top 20 activities in other areas. Tweak some activities to fit the requirements without discounting the overall picture. When the “excess fat” has been trimmed off, the team should work much better and faster. At last, remind yourself that flawless execution is about reaching the best you can within the limitations you have. Thus, a hyper-focused team that is aware of the actual “doing” than merely “communicating” is worth more than diamond. After all, in the end, flawless execution is more about people working in harmony than impressive strategies.

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