Execution is essential to the success of any idea or project. It’s the most visible part of launching a new program. Do it well and you’re a hero. Do it badly and there will be questions. Frankly, the questions would be well deserved. It makes no sense to spend weeks or months doing an analysis, pitching the idea to senior management, asking for resources, etc. only to fail during the rollout.
I’ve written before on this blog about the importance of execution. There are books dedicated to the topic like Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done”. In fact, I just learned of a software platform called GlitchPath that will help organizations do a project “premortem” to reduce the chance of failure.
But here’s the thing: the idea or process or project that you are implementing has to be a good one. A bad idea, even if you implement it flawlessly, is still a bad idea. And a bad idea implemented poorly, well…that’s a disaster. All the good implementation in the world will not turn a bad idea into a good one.
The goal is always to come up with good ideas and implement them well. But that’s not as easy as it looks. At least if you have a good idea and it’s not implemented well, there might be an opportunity to recover. Take Listerine for example. In the book “Freakonomics”, the authors say that Listerine was originally invented as a surgical antiseptic. It was also sold as a floor cleaner. But it didn’t reach success until it was pitched as a cure for “chronic halitosis.” Listerine was a good idea that wasn’t executed well (a couple of times) but eventually found success.
While I will admit that sometimes you can’t tell if an idea is good or not until it goes to market, there are a few things you can do to get some initial feedback about the idea or plan. It can help the organization decide if they want to make the investment into development. Here are four questions to get you started:
- Does it solve a problem? If so, what is the problem?
- Is it easy to explain – without charts/graphs/PowerPoint?
- How many other companies are offering the same thing?
- Will people spend money for it? Enough to support the idea?
Once organizations have decided to start turning an idea into reality, they must spend dedicated time discussing execution. This doesn’t need to be a lengthy process. It does need to be thorough.
- WHEN will the process start? Are there milestones that must be accomplished?
- WHO will be responsible?
- WHERE will implementation take place?
- HOW will the idea be implemented?
- WHAT should we communicate? To whom? When?
Sometimes thinking about execution can expose vulnerabilities in the project. That’s a good thing. I understand that some organizations today aren’t looking to launch products when they are perfect. They just need to be good enough. But the organization needs to be conscious that this is what they are doing. They are still striving to introduce a good product in the best way possible.
The competitive nature of business tends to create a race to be first to market. Organizations must decide if first is where they want to be. It is possible that perfectly executed second to market is a more desirable position.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the 2016 MBTI Users Conference in San Francisco, CA