Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flawless Execution - It's All About Leadership

In his latest "A View from the Q" blog, Paul Borawksi (ASQ Exec Dir) reflects on the goal-setting process and challenges leaders everywhere to not simply act, but to execute.

Why do so many well-formulated strategic plans fail to deliver on their promises? It's all about execution - or the lack thereof. Counter to a quote attributed to Edgar Whitney, "A good design poorly executed is much to be preferred over a poor design well executed", it is my experience that a great plan poorly executed is no better than no plan at all. Mark Fields (Ford) once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." So true. Flawless execution requires diligence, accountability and a change acceptance strategy to assure organizational alignment. Human capital is our most important asset. Constant, consistent leadership communications, thorough policy deployment, an effective change agent, and a set of meaningful measures are required before any organizational change can be effectively implemented and internalized.

Having a clearly defined mission, compelling vision, shared purpose and an articulated code of conduct are a great start, but adopting an improvement framework such as the Baldrige Criteria brings a much-needed systems approach to achieve organizational performance excellence. Paul Grizzell (Core Values Partners, Inc.) - Baldrige consultant, Senior Alumni Baldrige Examiner, and previous Board member and judge with the MN Council for Quality - created this simple graphic demonstrating the improved organizational alignment achieved via the Baldrige model:

Finally, to drive effective execution we must stop the practice of 2-point comparisons and begin applying statistical thinking in the corner office and board rooms across America. Sustainable flawless execution requires real change with demonstrable new levels of performance with minimal variation. We must train ourselves to look for deeper root causes and not be satisfied with the quick fix, or be tempted to react to every undesirable data point as though it were due to a special cause. All processes have variation; effective leadership appreciates the differences between special cause, common cause; can distinguish trends and patterns; and, understands that management of variation requires systems thinking along with proper use of tools, methods and approaches. Flawless execution depends on it.

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