Why disciplined execution is key to success
Consistency of action, consistency over time.
The difference that makes the difference for high performing organisations and individuals.
You can spend an eternity creating the best strategy in the world and on paper you should be a phenomenal business, however you fall down on disciplined execution.
I’ve seen so many businesses achieve accelerated growth, but delivering sustained growth requires a whole new set of skills and disciplines. It requires focus, it requires rigour, and it requires boundless levels of energy, commitment, and resilience.
Perhaps most importantly it requires alignment of all individuals behind a common purpose and ambition.
How good are you and your business in the discipline of disciplined execution?
Yes, I advocate allocating time for thinking and for creating your strategy….I’ve written a blog post on this very topic – why failing to plan really does mean planning to fail . BUT culturally, you also need to build a personal brand as an action focused individual that makes things happen.
Gaps in the market or opportunities are there one minute and gone the next. Your moment to capitalise and steal the edge requires decisiveness, agility, and conscious deliberate intent.
Disciplined execution is about having a plan and being flawless in its execution.
It’s about frequently revisiting and refining your plan based on empirical validation. What is working (keep doing it) and what isn’t (change it). It’s about testing small before going BIG. It’s about having the measures that matter in play, interpreting the insight, and acting accordingly.
It’s about having a defining question, which keeps you focused, and on track.
Will it make the boat go faster?
It was a simple defining question that propelled the British Olympic rowing team to world champions at the end of the 1990s – will it make the boat go faster?
The British rowing team had been in the wilderness for decades, typically coming 6th, 7th, or 8th in races and had been written off as real contenders. When Ben Hunt-Davis joined the team in 1991, very little changed at first. For the next seven years in fact, to 1998, the results remained the same: 6th, 7th, or 8th at World Championships, Regattas, and Olympics.
Finally, after another 7th place at the 1998 Cologne Regatta, the team was utterly fed up. They realised that if they wanted different results they would have to do things differently.
They started to test every decision they made by asking one simple question: ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ and action only the things that would.
In 1999, things began to change.
The team took 2nd place in four races. In 2000, the team was placed 2nd in its first race of the year and 1st in the next three. On Sunday, 24 September 2000 at 10h30, the team rowed to victory at the Sydney Olympics, winning the gold medal.
Making the boat go faster was all that mattered if they were to achieve their Vision and Purpose of 5 minutes and 18 seconds over 2,000m.
With a clear understanding of their goal, they had a defining question to test all their decisions: ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ They were focused, they were disciplined, and they avoided distractions, activities, or blind alleyways which took them off course from realising their goals, dreams, and ambitions.
Here are 3 key ideas to help you master the art of disciplined execution;
#1 READY-FIRE-AIM NOT READY-AIM-FIRE
From a strategic perspective, timing and speed to market is everything.
The challenge with the formula READY-AIM-FIRE is that so many businesses spend an age planning, thinking about the market opportunity, completing analysis, trying to create the ‘perfect’ strategy and dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. By the time they come to “FIRE’, the opportunity has passed them by or someone else has stolen the edge.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting planning and analysis doesn’t have its place. Yes, of course it does. But what I’m talking about here is that the formula should be more like READY-FIRE–AIM, rather than READY-AIM-FIRE.
Yes, undertake the planning and critical thinking at the front end , the READY part. But the reality is that despite all best efforts there will be adjustments to make as you implement and go to market. So why wait? Do the adjustments and learns as you go.
One of my global clients follow a philosophy that if the strategy and critical thinking is 80% there then they go and the final 20% they’ll figure out along the way! Why? Because the final 20% will always be a moving part so let’s tackle it whilst we’re on the move! There is a great lesson in here for all businesses.
#2 Discipline of Dashboards – the numbers don’t lie
In order to break records, you have to keep records.
Being disciplined in execution means having benchmarks in place for your business – sales, customers, people, operations, finance – which you measure regularly.
Dashboards provide you with the insight as to how you’re executing against your plans. On track or off track? As expected or way off the mark? Moving the business dials the right way or the wrong way?
Having this level of discipline in your business will allow you to make empirically validated decisions, be more structured and systematic in your thinking and support you in the delivery and execution of your goals.
#3 Hunt out the marginal gains
One of the key benefits of being disciplined in execution is achieving marginal gains. Each time you execute and deliver on something, these small wins, which when multiplied together, benefit from their compound effect.
This results in forward momentum, cadence and rhythm. And we all know the powerful force of momentum, it becomes like a tidal wave that just can’t be stopped.
How effective are you and your business in the discipline of disciplined execution?
Other topics in this series ‘5 surefire methods for building a high performing organisation’;
#4 Being disciplined in the execution of the plan
#5 A performance culture at the heart of the organisation