EXECUTION – The First Three Disciplines


There are many factors that separate organizations that execute well from those that regularly stumble. In the next three newsletters we will discuss five disciplines that improve execution.

The first of these disciplines is CLARITY. What we mean by clarity is that people know exactly what is expected of them as well as how their performance is going to be measured.

This is much easier said than done because of the “fog” created by assumptions, poor communication, poor attention to details and poor memory.

If you are really invested in clarity, have someone repeat back to you what they think you expect of them. Better yet, have them show you through their planning or actual behavior what they think you expect. You’ll be surprised how powerful this simple technique can be.

The second discipline is building a CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY. Culture is something that forms by itself (like jungles grow) or intentionally (like a cultivated piece of land). Our observation is that execution improves if the culture is such that everyone takes accountability seriously and this only happens when it is done intentionally. In other words, intentionally focusing on accountability as a feature of your organization’s culture improves execution.

It takes the discipline of holding others accountable to instill a culture of accountability. This starts at the top of the organization BUT must be shared by everyone, at all levels. Accountability is achieved with the aid of clarity and confrontation (as described below). It doesn’t happen by accident, however. It happens by consistent and sustained attention to it.

The third discipline is CONFRONTATION. It becomes necessary if CLARITY and a CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY are not enough.

We’re speaking here of the skill of confronting behavior that is not meeting expectations. Confronting someone constructively is much harder than intimidating or otherwise “striking fear into them.” It is often heavy lifting to figure out why someone is underperforming–to jointly problem solve what is going wrong. You might even have to accept responsibility for not being clear or for not providing enough of some resource (time, people, money, etc.). Much more information about the discipline of confrontation can be found in the book Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson.

Give us a call if you would like to discuss any of these execution disciplines in greater detail…