December 10, 2007, 12:03 PM — Companies frequently develop vision and mission statements about being number one in their industry, the great service they provide to customers, and their rewarding work environment. Yet more often than not, these statements are so far from reality that they become joke fodder for customers and employees alike. It doesn't have to be this way, says Richard Lepsinger. Your company really can keep the promises you make -- but first you must create a culture of execution.
"Creating a culture of execution begins with the knowledge that developing plans and strategic initiatives is just the starting point," says Lepsinger, president of OnPoint Consulting and coauthor (along with Dr. Gary Yukl) of Flexible Leadership: Creating Value by Balancing Multiple Challenges and Choices. "It also requires adopting the mindset that a highly skilled and engaged work forcewhile importantwill not ensure effective execution.
"Many leaders have a blind spot in this area," he adds. "Either they believe that their job is setting the direction, and execution is the responsibility of lower-level managers, or they assume that if they clearly communicate an exciting vision of the future to an engaged work force, everything else will fall into place."
A survey conducted by OnPoint Consulting shows how widespread the problem of ineffective execution is. Results show that almost half of those surveyed believe there is a gap between their organization's ability to develop a vision and strategy and its ability to execute that strategy, and even more64 percent to be exact -- lack confidence that the gap can be closed.
But Lepsinger insists that companies can make a conscious effort to close the execution gap. You simply have to take some tried and true steps to creating a "get it done" culture. For example:
Recognize that execution starts with a plan. "A solid plan can immensely improve the efficiency with which a project is carried out," says Lepsinger. "It facilitates the organization and coordination of related work activities, prevents operational delays and bottlenecks in work processes, helps people avoid duplication of effort, and helps employees set priorities and meet deadlines. It also helps you prepare for potential problems before they happen so that one snag in the system doesn't throw everyone completely off course. Remember that the best and most useful plans are flexible starting points that can be easily changed to address new needs or challenges as you encounter them."