- We expect perfection and are afraid that execution may show we are wrong. We have to stop thinking about developing perfect strategies. Plans give us a road map to our goals, but we have to adjust those, based on our experience in execution.
- Embrace failure and mistakes. They just help us know whether we are on target or not. They provide real world feedback that enables us to adjust our plans and goals.
- Write it down. Write down your first few steps or actions. Set clear goals and metrics. Writing it down does two things. First, there is something about writing it down that makes something more real. I'm sure there are lots of studies about this phenomenon, but writing something down makes the plan concrete. Second, when we execute the actions, we get to check it off on our list. The act of checking or crossing something off, gives us a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
- The first step is always the most difficult. Don't focus on the entire action plan, it can be overwhelming. Focus on the first step. Once you get past this point, somehow the next steps seem to come easier. When I assess failure in business strategies, very often it's because the organization never got started, they never took the first step. As a corollary, anticipation is always worse, Nike has the right idea, "Just Do It."
- Share the results with your team. Good or bad, you've learned something, now the team has something to work with in continuing to move forward.
- Don't over think things, keep it simple. Business schools, consultants, guru's, and all sorts of experts thrive complexity. It keeps us gainfully employed. However, over thinking things and making them too complex keeps us from taking action. Over thinking also starts us on that destructive path of second guessing ourselves.
- Don't take yourself too seriously, have fun. Somehow we take ourselves very seriously in executing business plans. When you focus on executing each step, even for the biggest plans, there is little that you can do that is not recoverable or fixable. Laugh when you make an error, have fun as you learn and correct the plan/strategy. Keep it fresh, keep it light.
- Execute your plan and give it a chance to succeed or fail. Every plan I have ever seen has obstacles. Don't abandon your strategy at the first obstacle -- worse yet, don't abandon your plan before you start. At the risk of being repetitive, we learn, we adjust, we move forward.
Remember, without taking action, all our planning and strategizing are just wishful thinking.
There are lots of resources out there in planning and execution. A couple of recent blog posts provide some additional hints on execution. Harvard Management Update's "Execute Your Strategy Without Killing It," and The Glue's "Top 10 Reasons Strategies Fail To Be Executed" are worth reading.