What is Execution

Wed, Dec 10, 2008

Strategy and Execution

iStock_000004086916XSmallExecution is about achieving results. It’s about turning ideas into actions and dreams into reality. Without action, no plan has any meaning.

Managers are trained to plan, not execute. Some top managers believe that implementation is best left to lower-level employees. Truth is execution is the essence of managerial work and demands ownership at all levels of management.

Planning and execution are highly interdependent. The greater the interaction between ‘doers’ and ‘planners’ ‘“ or the greater the overlap of the two processes ‘“ the greater the likelihood of successful execution. Planning and doing must be simultaneous ‘“ managers must be thinking about execution as they are formulating their plans.

Execution is a process with a set of interconnected activities that is required for a plan to work. It is a systematic process of rigorously discussing HOWs and WHATs, questioning, following through, and ensuring accountability. It includes making assumptions about work environment, assessing the feasibility of options, linking plan to action and people who are going to implement the plan, synchronizing those people and their various activities, and linking rewards to outcomes. It also includes flexibility for changing assumptions as the environment changes and a plan to fall back upon when things go wrong.
[edit] How to Execute

RAM Rule of Execution:

R: define Results, in measurable terms

A: Ask questions to check feasibility of plan and assumptions

M: Monitor the progress closely

Let’s see the details of each as follows.


The ‘doers’ and ‘planners’ must interact to define the outcomes of the initiative or plan. Execution requires the vision of the planners and the knowledge of the doers for success. The two must define the results expected in measurable terms. This will eliminate ambiguities in expectation from the doers and ensure evaluation of performance in an objective manner. Results can be defined by schedules, SMART Objectives, or even a simple checklist.

Tip: ‘increase production’ does not give a clear picture instead ‘increase production by 40% of current production levels’ gives you a reference point and also tells you how your success will be measured. Similarly, ‘increase staff’ may not have much significance whereas ‘hire 30 full-time employees in production by end of October-06’ defines your goal objectively.


Once the results are defined there still remains a feasibility check to assure the expectations are reasonable. Ask questions. Discuss the WHATs ‘“ What options do we have, What will the customer say, What do others do, What’s insane, What’s irrelevant, etc. Discuss the HOWs ‘“ How much time it will take, How many people are needed, How many $$ can we spend, How much loss can be sustained, etc. Do a gut check ‘“ is this reasonable?


Now we have the desired outcomes which have been tested for their feasibility. Assume we start implementing the plan. But how will we know the status at any given time? For that you need to monitor performance. The planners must interact with the doers to know what’s going on, how much progress has been made, are there any obstacles, how to overcome the obstacles and move on, etc. Follow up is important to know things are as per the plan. It helps reallocate resources and fine tune the plan at an early stage reducing losses. It assures continuous improvement!

Tip: Make a checklist of tasks to be done at the beginning of the day and check 15 minutes before the end of the day.

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