Monday, July 26, 2004

Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

by Asim Jalis

These days I am listening to the book called "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done", by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. It is quite good. The authors are men of action, people who get things done, and not theorizers. This is both good and bad. It's good because they have credibility. It's bad because their analysis could be cleaner. Nevertheless, there is enough meat in the book to make it worthwhile. B&C's main point is that to execute one must be connected to reality always. Before executing on the plan get as much information as possible. Realize that reality is constantly evolving and you cannot know everything. But make an attempt to test some of your assumption. Second, you must follow through. The key to success in execution is not a great strategy, but rather great follow through. Keep at it until you are done. Follow through requires setting up a way to measure success and failure. This is essentially the idea of test-first applied to life. Define the exit criteria before you start and then stay focused on it. Suppose you call a company with a problem and they leave you waiting on the phone and then never resolve your issue. That is an organization that does not understand follow through. Chances are they also don't measure percentage of calls completed or the satisfaction level of customers. Compare them to a company that stays on the line till your issue is resolved, and then calls you back the next day to ensure that you are satisfied. The second organization knows how to execute. It is likely that they have a system that tracks their follow through. At work I have started keeping an excel spreadsheet containing all the issues that I need to resolve for other people and how long it takes me to resolve them. My current job is extremely customer oriented. We develop internal tools for MS Exchange. The users are Exchange product developers. The interesting thing is that most people in my group don't realize that our job is customer oriented. They believe it is a technology oriented job. I am also interested in sending out surveys to people to measure their level of satisfaction. I have to figure out an easy and cheap way to do this. I got these ideas for surveys and for tracking issue closure time from Microsoft's internal IT group. They are the best IT group I have ever interacted with. And a lot of it has to do with this focus on measurement that they have.