4 Essential “Tools” for your “Execution” toolbox

One of my favorite episodes of the “Mythbusters” TV show takes place on a “deserted” island.

The “myth” they’re trying to “bust”? To see if the guys can survive using only one often-touted and highly exclaimed ‘tool’ – duct tape.  Granted, they had a LOT of duct tape, a few skids worth, but miraculously they were able to use duct tape to create a shelter, get food and even find water.  It’s a fun episode to watch – check it out here for some laughs and great examples of ingenuity.

 From Mythbusters, Duct Tape Island episode on Mythbusters | CREDIT: Discovery Channel

From Mythbusters, Duct Tape Island episode on Mythbusters
CREDIT: Discovery Channel

While duct tape may be the “survival tool” of choice for the guys from “Mythbusters” – unfortunately for most business leaders, duct tape won’t do it when it comes aligning your team and driving great Execution.   (Although I’d love to hear your ideas about uses for duct tape in your companies and check out this video about a team that we literally tied together without a plan :-)

Great execution certainly takes a lot of discipline but if you’ve got the right tool kit to leverage, it can be a lot less frustrating and significantly more rewarding.  Throwing the duct tape aside, here’s 4 essential tools to add to your kit.

1)      Does each position have a clear mission statement that matters?

One essential Execution tool is the position scorecard.  And a critical aspect of a position scorecard is a clear mission statement.  This is the position’s purpose statement – why this person needs to get up in the morning, come to work and drive for results.  These statements give clarity and accountability to each person working in the business.

Note that this is not the company’s mission or purpose statement – although I’ve had clients that have tied these statements together and the result can be extremely powerful for getting employees together and pulling in the same direction.

Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and noted author of Man’s Search for Meaning” said it best.

“Human beings are meaning making machines…He who has a ‘why’ can bear any ‘how’.” We need meaning and purpose in our lives and we do our best work when we have context for what we’re asked to do.

Yet often as business leaders, we forget that critical element and we turn an already difficult task – getting important things done versus the myriad of urgent and less important things that are bound to distract us – into an impossible one.

One of the best practical pieces on writing a solid position scorecard (the #1 TopGrading tool BTW) was posted by Toby Jenkins from Bluewire Media earlier this year.  Check it out and make it one of your fourth quarter priorities to get the people in your organization to create theirs!

2)      How will your employees get an ‘A’? (And do they know an “A” when they get it?)

One of my favorite quotes from Marcus Buckingham’s talk at the University of Pennsylvania a few years back is, “Do the people on your team know how they’ll get an ‘A’ for their performance?”  I don’t mean a company-wide incentive plan but a real, honest-to-goodness customized plan for their position that’s tied to company goals as well as their own position responsibilities?

A good TopGrading scorecard, as noted above, will certainly help with answer this question but there’s another tool that should be part of your “kit” – Column 7 of the One Page Plan™.

As my clients know, I’m a fan of having everyone in a business unit or company have their own “Column 7” For those of you not familiar with the One Page Plan™, column 7 is the last column on the plan – the one that has everyone document the key activities that they’re accountable to perform, the KPI’s (key performance indicators) that will measure their performance and the critical numbers they’re expected to achieve.  All of which are aligned to support the overall business goals AND get them an ‘A’ if they succeed.  In other words, their own report card over which they have ownership.

3)      Does each person have clarity on their decision-making authority?

Execution tool #3 comes from Susan Scott’s book, “Fierce Conversations” – the Decision Tree.  Susan’s got a great set of tools in her book for managing relationships, which are the backbone of my work with CEO Think Tank™ members and advisory clients.  The Decision Tree is one of the best for managing people and their development as well as supporting great Execution.

And the “tree” is simple:

If it’s a Leaf Decision – Make the decision.  Act on it.  Don’t report the action that you took.

If it’s a Branch Decisions – Make the decision.  Act on it.  Report the action that you took daily, weekly or monthly – whatever timing is mutually decided upon when you meet with your direct manager.

For Trunk Decisions – Make the decision.  Report your decision before you take action. (A trunk decision isn’t necessarily more important than a leaf decision but a poor decision here could result in significant damage to the tree.)

For Root Decisions – Make the decision jointly, with input from many people.  These are the decisions that, if poorly made and executed, could cause major harm to the organization.

“If your employees believe their job is to do what you tell them, you’re sunk,” says Susan.

The main goal of the Decision Tree is to identify which categories decisions fall into so that employees so that everyone understands their own authority and is empowered to take action.  It also supports their development as a leader and frees up executives to take on more challenging responsibilities themselves – and have more time.

 

So what’s #4?  Well, knowing whether the material you’re working with is clay, concrete, ice or titanium.  And what does that “cryptic” answer mean?  Stay tuned…more coming up in my next blog.

And for more on any of these tools, give us a call OR if you’d like to tighten up your own Execution process, register today  for our upcoming “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” workshop on Tuesday, November 5th in Philadelphia!  

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