How to get things done

How to get things done: The art of execution

There is enough written and discussed about strategy v/s execution. A strategy doesn’t implement itself. For any strategy to work, we need to know how to get things done. Getting things done is actually an art. In other words, this is the art of execution. We can learn to master the art of “execution” to success at work place and in life in three easy steps.

Success comes from flawless execution.

What is execution?

Execution is the discipline of getting things done. At any role in a corporate hierarchy, we work in a team and not in isolation. We all have clearly defined KRA at work. While you are primarily responsible to achieve your KRA, you will find achievement of your KRA not only depends on you working on them regularly. But also depends on your ability of how to get things done from your co-workers. So execution is not about keep working on your task alone. This is what makes execution different from hard work.

Who need to about how to get things done

The biggest mistake is to think execution as the tactical side of business. Similarly thinking that only people involved on implementation and tactical functions as the one needs to practice execution is also a big mistake. Execution needs to be practiced by everybody right from the leadership team till the last mile implementer. Leadership team must be in charge of creating the execution culture by practicing it themselves. When leaders know how to get things done, they can define the strategy which are more realistic and more like a road map. On the other hand, It is proven fact that execution oriented people deliver better results and climb up faster.

Why is execution so important ?

Execution or the knowledge of how to get things done also creates accountability. When things which are supposed to happen don’t happen, we fail on deliverables and results. All the talks about the big change or the next level are pointless unless they are acted upon. You are judged based on actual results you deliver. Your achievements and results can only be bettered with execution. This is why execution can really empower your way to success by improving your results.

3 steps to practice and master the art of how to get things done:

  • Translate thoughts into specific steps for action
  • Define alarm system
  • Follow through with discipline and consistency

Step 1: Translate thoughts into specific steps for action:

Execution starts by translating thoughts in to specific steps for action so that we can create a roadmap to achievement. Start this by asking specific questions like :

  • What needs to be done?
  • What resources are required to the task done?
  • How it will be done?
  • When it needs to be done?
  • Who will do it?

Leaders can practice execution by asking right questions to the team. This is different from micromanaging the team. Micromanaging is to give answer of all above questions to the team, Execution is to ask the questions and getting the answers form your team. This exercise helps leader to finalise accountability, priority and resource allocation. These questions by leaders also make sure that team understands the priority.

People in non leadership function starts execution by asking these questions to self and then defining steps and priority. They seek support at the beginning if any resources needs to be acquired.

At the end of first step, you will have a clear roadmap to achievement and then can move to actual action.

Step 2: Define alarm system:

Another key step in practicing execution is to clearly define when to raise alarm if things are not going as desired. We don’t always get desired results whatever strong our plans are. This is about setting smaller milestone for the progress of any task. Achievement of smaller milestone are actually our alarm system to know if we are on the right track or deviating. These alarms helps us to activate any corrective measures at early stage to ensure we get back on track faster.

Step 3: Follow through with discipline and consistently:

This is the most important step to ensure execution. Most people fail at this stage of execution. Many times we face other tasks come up which seems more important and we miss working on earlier task on hand. Leaders can set a follow through mechanism by periodic review. Individuals need to ensure follow through with consistency. Key word here is the “consistency”. When people starts getting consistent questions about any task they ensure timely completion.

Example of how to get things done by leaders:

A consumer durable company was once facing the challenge of shortage of spares for the after sales service. “What do you think needs to be done?” the CEO asked service team. The Service in charge talked about historic correlation of spares demand with sales of each product. So he asked to link the future spares procurement with forward sales plan. “I will need monthly updates on forward sales plan along with monthly procurement budget.” he added. The CEO asked VP Sales to regularly provide the sales plan and VP finance for the procurement budget.

After a pause of few seconds, VP finance said service department is already over utilising their department budget. The CEO turned to the CFO and told, “You will surely figure out a way to ensure service team is able to procure required spares in time”. He also asked the service in-charge to schedule a monthly review meeting involving VP Sales, VP Finance, CFO and CEO.

In this case, by asking right questions and involving right people, the CEO first surfaced the conflict between finance and service team. Later he empowered the CFO to resolve this conflict by making him responsible to make the required budget available to service team and finally by creating periodic follow through mechanism involving all stakeholders he ensured everyone will do their task. He made sure team understands the priority of spare procurement. He also did not micromanage any team and left it to respective teams to find solution.

Example of how to get things done by a young manager:

Let’s take another example. A young merchandiser in a distribution company wanted to push sales of his products through B2B gifting in the upcoming gifting season. So he made step wise roadmap from identifying right products, collaborating with supply chain to ensure availability. Further, taking price support for bulk quantity orders, involving marketing to promote product in organisation’s B2B catalogue and finally educating B2B sales team about his product.

He made step wise action plan, identified right people from each department, took their prior appointments, defined timeline for each task and finally prepared weekly tracker on updates and started publishing a weekly trackers to all stakeholders. He was consistently checking with respective departments and teams for the work and taking updates.

In this case, the merchandiser was not the leader of organisation. Yet he knew that he is not supposed to do all work on his own. He identified right people to support him in execution of his sales plan. Defining timeline for each task was his alarm system to check if any task is getting behind the schedule and requires more push. Further, publishing weekly tracker served as follow through plan. He was able to successfully link what, who, when and how of execution with consistency.

Finally, execution is key success factor for everyone at work place at whatever hierarchy one is. Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through and ensuring accountability.

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