Ram Charan on Linking Strategy to Execution

Execution StrategyI recently had the privilege of attending a face to face session with Ram Charan the famous author of over a dozen acclaimed books in as many years on management  including  “ The Game Changer”, “ Boards at Work”, “Owning Up” , “ What the Customers Want You To Know” , “ The Talent Masters” and the latest  in the series being “ The Leadership Pipeline”. His books have got personal endorsements from none other than the legendary Jack Welsh of GE, Andrea Jung of Avon Products and A.G. Lafley of Proctor and Gamble, Jack Krol of DuPont and James M Kilt of The Gillette Company among the business leaders; and Stephen R. Covey the management guru and author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The Leader in Me”, Jeoff Colvin of Fortune Magazine etc. So it generated quite an excitement in anticipation to be face to face in a small group of elite colleagues in a whole day workshop with him.

According to Ram Charan, execution is the key as this is where the rubber hits the road and is the toughest part of the innovation cycle from ideation to strategizing to executing and then measuring the impact and sustaining the same. There are any numbers of examples where good ideas and strategies have yielded no results due to problems in execution. At the same time execution is about a lot of detail and takes time. So how do most leaders who run vast empires of business of Fortune 100 companies able to focus on execution. In his experience most such leaders have a unique ability to get from a hundred thousand feet birds eye view to a hundred feet view of detail and back to a hundred thousand feet all in a matter of 15 minutes. They also consider time as their most  valuable asset. So how do they do it? Here are some nuggets from the same.

  1. The Hows? are as important to review as is the Whats? Unless you are satisfied that the Hows are clear to the team do not accept or approve it as a leader.
  2.  Limit your meetings to very short meetings ( 15 minutes or so), if you spend longer than you will mostly be trying to specify the Hows? Instead ask the team to come back with the Hows again if you are not satisfied that they have an indepth plan.
  3. One can do an in-depth review and get to the crux of the matter in less than seven questions. The art of asking is when you demonstrate getting from hundred thousand feet to hundred feet and back in 15 minutes and make an assessment.
  4. Have razor sharp priorities and define what gives you the maximum return on your time. No more than five priorities at a time. Fifteen is too many.
  5. Focus on team building. Look at your team and people eight quarters ahead and review if you have the right team for what you would like to achieve in eight quarters. Configure the team in the right organization structure. People fall in buckets of Innovators, Specialists, Executors and Integrators. Use integrators effectively in your organization to maximize the throughput of the company.
  6. Summarize every meeting with clear actions and next steps and create actions and define accountability and responsibility.
  7. Have a clear system of measuring progress and competition or market disruption and never hesitate to change course or reprioritize.

Like all above are the Whats and How each one is able to execute on above and the quality of the execution will separate the Leaders from the Also Rans.

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