Controversial message of the day! How often have your heard it from your manager, or proclaimed it to your people? Standing proudly amongst your team you recite the mantra that executional excellence is a vital strategy to your company’s growth and success. That it’s paramount to taking your business to the next level. Instrumental to achieving the corporate vision. Says who? Where’s the proof? What are the metrics?
You say “executional excellence” meaning flawless execution or more simply just do it right. But what do others hear? Don’t make mistakes! Don’t fail! Perception is in the eye of the beholder or in this case their ear. More importantly what to others conclude after hearing what they heard from your declaration of noble intent in executional excellence? Play it safe! Take no risks! And after all “if flawless execution is such an important strategy in our organization I’m not risking my job and career by messing up”. This is a key reason why well intentioned, hard working and talented people and leaders (mostly unintentionally) are holding back your company’s growth, success, competitiveness and innovation.
A culture, strategy, general belief, or regular declarations from the CEO and executives for executional excellence is especially paralytic in large organizations with policies and procedures for everything, and a big reason why change happens so slowly. Organizations with process-driven cultures also fall victim because “nobody lost their job for following the rules”. And let’s not forget those companies in industries where engineering, science, or medicine/healthcare is the focus because “getting it right is better than trying something new”.
In his Ted Talk “how to get better at the things you care about” Eduardo Briceno (very worthwhile 11 minutes) covers much ground on the topic of a learning culture, separating learning from performance zones, and focusing on specific skills to build greater capabilities leading to superior performance. But we leave learning and development exploration for another blog post. For this blog post it’s his reference to flawless execution that’s piqued our passion.
Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space and former Commander of the International Space Station. In his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth he talks of the space agency’s obsession with doing it right, because after all a small mistake in space means you die in a hurry. But he also details the painstaking process of practice, learning, succeeding, failing, and feedback that make executional excellence possible.
So let’s first change beliefs.
- Rather than “flawless execution is crucial to our success”, how about…
- “Doing it right isn’t as good as pushing limits, trying something new, and doing it partly right”, or
- “We’re better when we encourage our people to try, fail and learn”, or maybe
- “We innovate by thinking like Edison”, or possibly
- “We learn through constant practice”, or just
- “We reward the courage to try and fail”
Stimulated? Challenged? Curious? Think I’m full of it? Drop me a line and we’ll figure it out for you together.