In their marvelous book, Execution, Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan say:
“Execution is not only the biggest issue facing business today; it is
something that no one has explained satisfactorily.”
Execution was published 2002 and things haven’t changed all that much.
Executives, investors, and authors bemoan the lack of execution. And business
leaders still do lots and lots of planning. There are strategic plans and
planning reviews and reorganization plans.
We want to read about planning, too. Search Amazon for “planning” and you get
a list of over 200,000 books. Do the same for “execution” and there are less
So why do we love to plan and hate to execute? The reasons aren’t that hard
to find and they’re rooted in human nature. Here’s how things are in most
companies I’ve seen.
Planning is all about possibilities Execution is all about accountability.
Planners analyze opportunities. Execution is deals in limitations.
Planning is intellectual fun, with no responsibilities. Execution is all
about work and there’s lots of responsibility.
You can declare a victory when you produce a plan. Execution never ends.
Planning is directing what will be done. Execution is doing what the planners
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Keep the plan simple with lots of room under the tent for adaptability.
That’s most effective in a complex, fast moving environment.
Move key operational decisions out to the edge. Central planning doesn’t work
for economies and it’s not likely to work for you.
Recognize that the planning doesn’t end when you produce the plan. Adaptation
in the face of reality completes the plan.
Praise execution, not planning. Execution is real results. Plans are fond
hopes that never survive a brush with reality.
Boss’s Bottom Line
The important parts of your job are accomplishing the mission and caring for
your people. Those are “execution” things. Planning is only important if it
helps you execute more effectively.