Mission, Vision, Purpose

From vision to victory: 3 keys to effective execution

effective execution

The best leaders have a clear vision and an eye for the operating detail that will “Make or Break” that vision. A lack of vision will result in a business that spins its wheels. And yet, even the best vision will go nowhere in the face of poor execution.

The big struggle for most leaders is how to do both. How do you actively lead your organization to ensure superb execution of your vision without being consumed by the details and the urgent “alligators” — the small, daily crises that steal your ability to execute?

I learned about the power of good direction and the benefits of focusing on organization by successfully running companies for over 30 years. Some of these companies were large divisions of corporations: Nestle, Pillsbury, Weyerhaeuser, and Constellation Brands. Other were small companies like Koala Springs International and The Primavera Company.

What I’ve found is that there are 3 keys to effective execution:

1. Describe the future of your company in a clear, compelling way.

Making your vision clear, specific, and measurable helps executives avoid a big pitfall: over-generalization. Many executives state that their vision is to be the best in their niche, and that’s fine for outward-facing marketing materials, but executives and their employees need to see clear progress toward achieving their vision.

If you don’t figure out how to measure your progress toward becoming “the best,” then your people won’t know if they are doing the right things. You’ll end up losing the opportunity to build the kind of energy and confidence people get from seeing they are moving toward that vision.

In building your vision, look into the future — 3 or 5 years — and see what’s going to be different. Then make sure that your organization knows that we are “here” today, and we are going to be “there” in the future. That way, your people can figure out a way to get there. They are now involved in creating your future because it is clear what that future will look like.

I have learned that all good performance starts with clear direction.

2. Focus on your company’s ‘Make or Break.’

The concept of “Make or Break” is about focus and is about your role as a leader to provide focus to your company.

Your “Make or Break” is the one thing that must be done extraordinarily well to achieve your vision. It is really your core strategy. When executives find their make-or-break issue, they can point their organization in a better direction, create a clear vision for the future, and give employees a path to follow.

CEOs often have a difficult time focusing on their make-or-break issue. They’re pulled in multiple directions by all the many things that need to get done, plus handling the details and the urgent “alligators” — small crises they face daily — that their people don’t focus consistently on the most important thing. This is where most companies run into trouble with execution.

By defining your core strategy — your “Make or Break” — and ensuring that it is happening week-in and week-out in your company, you will stay on track toward achieving your vision.

3. Get everyone working together to execute the right tasks.

The key to staying on track is having what I call “forward-facing metrics.”

Forward-facing metrics are about activities. You do an activity today and you’ll get a result tomorrow — activities always face forward. You can figure those activities out and put them into a dashboard so you can track them and ensure they’re happening.

You need to check up on them every single week, hold people accountable, and have everyone on the same page to ensure those activities get done.

Assign a single person to do their activity, then they report to everybody every week on what they’re doing. And our job as an organization is to help them be successful in getting there. If they begin to struggle — they always do because we all do — then we all work together to help them get back on track.

If you want to execute your vision and see it become a reality, follow these 3 key steps. That’s how you achieve amazing things in business.

Want to learn more? Then be sure to register for Dan’s discussion, From Vision to Victory: A “Make or Break” Guide to Effective Execution, which includes a facilitated Q&A session with Vistage Chair Linda Remsberg.

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Category: Mission, Vision, Purpose

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About the Author: Dan Barnett

A recognized expert on business, Barnett has appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box and Bloomberg to speak on leadership. Presented the Lifetime Achievement Award, Fast Track Award, Top Performer Award, and Chair Excellence Award by Vistage

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