Make Things Happen

This excerpt from chapter three of "The Leadership Code, Five Rules to Lead By" offers some tips for executing on ideas.

This story accompanies The Leadership Factor.

Monday, February 1, 2010
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Rule 2: Make Things Happen

To make things happen, be an executor:

1. Make change happen.

2. Follow a decision protocol.

3. Ensure accountability.

4. Build teams.

5. Ensure technical proficiency.

Execution is making sure that you get where you are going. Knowing where you are going and getting there are two very different challenges. We often know where we want to go and what we should do, but we don't do it well.

At a personal level, we know we should exercise, eat healthily and spend time with those we love, but in the inevitable rush of life, too often we don't do these things as well as we would like. Execution is the ability to turn what we know into what we do.

As a leader, your ability to execute will enable you to turn strategic aspirations into actions, desires into results and desired futures into present reality. By being able to execute, you enable others to see how a future vision will affect their actions today.

The ability to execute is also highly practical. Short-term success can be the engine that will drive the organization forward and reach the tipping point that makes strategy happen. Ability to execute instills disciplines that enable you to produce the right skills, further institutional knowledge and -- let's be real -- make money.

The better you execute, the more money you will have to meet current obligations, to fund future investments and to create a safety net in case of difficulties or to capitalize on opportunities yet unforeseen.

Execution without strategy may be blind, but strategy without execution is unfounded hope.

Over the last several years, Procter & Gamble has undergone a fundamental transformation. Under the watch of CEO A.G. Lafley, P&G has set its sights on a new strategy and then has been an execution machine in the midst of large-scale change.

Others may have good ideas, but P&G has been able to have them and execute them in a manner that has catapulted its results to the top of the industries in which it competes -- all this and acquire and merge Gillette into its distinctive culture as well.

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Perhaps one of P&G's secret weapons is that employees tend to stay for their whole career and so, over time, they get to know each other, and this helps them get things done.

In our work and study, we have found execution constants. Leaders who execute connect the present to the future, focus on linking the short term to the long term, manage their time, engage others, and ensure accountability and consequences for delivering on time.

These leaders accept responsibility for what needs to happen, do what needs to be done and develop a convincing track record of delivering results. They keep promises to multiple stakeholders. In short, they follow the five fundamental execution disciplines we [list above].

The Leadership Code, Five Rules to Lead By was written by Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman and published by the Harvard Business Press. Information on purchasing the book can be found here.

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