One of my favorite episodes of the old “Mythbusters” TV shows 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.
But while duct tape may be the “survival tool” of choice for the guys from Mythbusters – unfortunately for most CEO’s and business leaders, duct tape won’t do it when it comes aligning your team and driving great Execution. However, if you’ve got the right tool kit to leverage, getting things done – including your plan and priorities – can be a lot less frustrating and a lot more rewarding.
Duct tape aside, here are 4 essential tools to add to your kit.
#1 A Mission Statement that matters for each Position
The first essential Execution tool is the position scorecard. And a critical aspect of a position scorecard is a clear mission statement. The mission statement is the position’s purpose in the company – 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 written by Toby Jenkins from Bluewire Media. Check it out here and make it one of your 1st quarter priorities to get the people in your organization to write theirs down!
#2 “A” Performance Defined and Measured
Marcus Buckingham is famous in his talks for asking, “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 mission statement, 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 and alums 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 “Scaling Up” One Page Plan™, column 7 is the last column that has everyone document the key activities that they’re accountable to perform, the KPI’s (key performance indicators) that will measure their performance along with the TARGETS for those that they’re expected to hit 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 Decision-making Authority Clearly Defined
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 strategic planning 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.
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.
#4 Communication Rhythms to Keep People on Track and Focused
Well, really the right Communication Rhythms…specifically the Daily Huddles and Weekly Tacticals where people are expected to report in on their “daily number” (a KPI that is tracked every day OR at least once/ week) and their Weekly KPI’s (from their Column 7’s) respectively.
A good meeting serves the purpose that a well-place speed bump is supposed to serve. It forces us to slow down and notice where we are and what’s going on. Both of these meetings also use the best form of accountability – peer to peer where each person is reporting on where they are versus their targets OR how much progress they’ve made against a goal and if they’ve met their target, there’s no reason to talk anymore. If they’re off target, however, the issue is highlighted and worked – either off line if it’s a Daily OR in the meeting at the Weekly.
Without the accountability of meetings to check on progress, it’s like walking into a football game in the middle of a match without a scoreboard or lines on the field. You have no idea if you’re winning or losing. And there’s no motivation for your employees to really perform.