When I first told some of my friends in the social sector that I am focusing on Execution Excellence they got a little concerned with the word ‘Execution’. To them the only ‘execution’ was what was being discussed in the context of those walking the green mile (death row)! Then on, I changed my parlance to ‘Operational Efficiency’. However, execution excellence is much more than that. In fact operational efficiency is just one part of Execution Excellence.Execution Excellence is all about the complete investment of the organization’s resources, including money, time, processes, people etc., into maximize the outcome or impact of the organization. For a social organization, the outcome may be measured in myriad aspects, depending on the sector on which the organization is focusing. An organization which is doing great on execution will see minimal wastage of its resources.
To me, there are five aspects which are crucial for a well-tuned organization scaling high on execution excellence.
Operations: Operational efficiency is the integral backbone of execution excellence. Many organizations in the social world, be it social entrepreneurship focused or charity focused, do not have a well defined operational model, which represents the organization as a system with inputs and outputs, with well defined streams of operation for smooth and efficient execution. While their minds are quite engaged with the passion of what they do, they ignore the rigour that is needed to define an operational and process model. In the absence of a defined model, they are in no shape to continuously evaluate how they need to retune their operations on a regular basis to improve the outcome. Many organizations confuse adhocness and lack of operational framework as a ‘maverick’ style. However it is clear that unless you have a very well defined operational framework for planning and tracking on a continuous improvement basis, there is no learning, and there is no way success can be predicted. If you keep on top of the evolution of operational models in the corporate world, you will also recognize that these are light-weight processes, yet well defined, and hence will only speed up the execution machinery.
Governance Model: This is a very critical part of execution excellence. Many times companies think that just by having a well defined operational model in place, things work. If things were that simple, many companies would not have failed. However there is a governance model around it which has to be well defined, and that comes only through an intimate understanding of how things are run in that company, and what are the various practices are that work or do not work. Governance is typically done by a Board of Directors or a Governing Council whose main job is to look at the big picture, constantly see if the operational model is as a whole giving the right results in terms of growth and impact, to look at whether the organizational structure itself needs a re-shaping, and various aspects like that. It looks also at things like whether all the communication interfaces between all the entities, internal and external, are working well. Governance comes at a layer encompassing all aspects of the organization.
Leadership Style: All leaders don’t fit everywhere. There is a leadership style that is most amenable to a certain organization, though the fundamentals of leadership may be the same. It is very important that a synergy is identified between what the organization wants to do, and the leadership qualities of the leader(s) of that organization towards achieving the same. This then has to be followed up with specific action plans on how to achieve that resonance. There are many organizations where the leader is just an ‘inspirer’ or ‘motivator’ with not enough touch with what’s going on in his organization, the ground realities of the organizations. Such leaders should be given the right guidance to orient their qualities towards the success of the organization.
Decision Making Culture: You may be surprised as to why this has to be a specific focus area when we talk about execution excellence. The reason is that the culture of decision making seems to be in serious trouble in many organizations. Most of the Chief Executives of the organizations do not even know that they are poor or slow decision makers. However, when you talk to the people of the organization as well as the other customers, partners and stakeholders of the organization, and when you correlate what you hear with the achievements, or lack of the same, of the organization, then the absence of a decision making culture becomes obvious. Organizations should evaluate on how the decision making engine is tuned and working towards the best outcome in terms of impact.
Organizational and People Culture: One aspect that almost always get ignored by the leaders, even if they get the other areas right, is that their success is also very closely related to the culture of the organization and the culture of the people. There are multiple situations where the culture is of saying Yes to the leader, and then under-delivering and getting away with that. Some other organizations have issues with low motivation of employees because of less efficient managers. This culture has to be identified and spelt out, and redesigned where needed, for better efficiency.
Overall, these are five important aspects which every organization and its leadership should take time to look deeply into, evaluate, and work out ways of improvement in each. This also has to become ingrained as a continuously evolving culture, which then will keep the organization focused and results-oriented. While this easier said than done, a commitment by the leadership team to achieve execution excellence, with right help in the needed areas, will take the organization to greater heights.