‘Culture of execution’ early indicator of companies that will come out stronger after the disruption
I am on the topic of execution, and in the previous delivery, I discussed some of the reasons why organisations struggle with innovation implementation. I use “some” because there are various reasons, I just highlighted a few of the usual suspects.
In a nutshell, the causes for not taking action I emphasized were people being afraid of change and taking risks, analysis paralysis, i.e., having a lot of ideas and procrastinating on picking one, skill in execution, and having the will to take action.
During my Ph.D. research, I came across the term “implementation climate.” There were different definitions for the term by various researchers, but in essence, the term refers to how innovation implementation is supported in an organization. The common elements used to measure the perception of a climate of support for innovation in an organisation are: learning and development, participation in decision making, management support, collaboration, power, communication, and tolerance for conflict and risk.
I just refer to this phenomenon as the “culture of execution,” and it is a measure of how efficient “things get done” in the organisation.
Doers vs. Procrastinators
I have come to accept that there are two kinds of people in every organisation. You get the person who cannot deliver fast enough. From the moment you leave a meeting till the time you get back to your desk, a summary of the action points is already in your inbox, and the first two tasks are ticked as done. I know one such person, and I wish I could mention her name. I am just amazed every time by how proactive and action-oriented she is, and how fast she delivers.
And then you get the kind of person where you ask for something to be done, and then you have to follow up ten times through various mediums, e-mail, text messages, telephone calls, face-to-face appeals etc. Eventually, when you threaten with disciplinary action as a last option, you get a response.
I know people are busy, and there is much work that has to be done, but why can some people deliver in good time, and some people not. It is the same with organisations, in some organisations change happens fast, and things get done, and in other organisations things can drag on and on, and change is a slow and painful process.
According to research, organisations that are adaptable and can execute efficiently, outperform their peers who are less efficient at execution. This finding certainly comes as no surprise. We experienced and witnessed firsthand over the last month when the change was abruptly enforced on all of us, how organisations adapted, some faster than others. The organisations that adapted the fastest will be the ones that will weather the proverbial storm, and I believe these organisations have a culture of execution, that is why they could react so swiftly.
I am the first to say that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change an organisation’s culture. But if die-hard procrastinators can change their ways, organisations can also become better at execution.
There is not a quick fix for this, and it can certainly not be done overnight. Still, on a high level, I found the following recommendations from Mike Desjardins helpful to begin with:
1. Reset meeting norms. Set an example by arriving at and starting meetings on time. Close meetings with a review of any decisions, actions, next steps, and accountabilities.
2. Make deadlines count. Show others what accountability looks like by doing what you said you were going to do when you said you’d do it.
3. Challenge norms around accountability. Be transparent about project timelines and expected results, so everyone understands how their piece affects the whole. Encourage people to challenge one another when things get missed, and make sure everyone understands the impact their missed accountabilities are having on others.
4. Leaders must set the example. As with any culture change, leadership is critical. If leaders don’t change to “get things done,” the culture of execution will also not change.
Still sticking with the theme of execution, it is a proven innovation principle that to make things happen, you need to combine a thinker with a doer. Matching the right people to get things done is a topic of great interest to me and I will unpack it in the next delivery.
I conclude with the wisdom of Bruce Lee: “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”