Throughout my career, I've worked in three big tech companies and consulted hundreds of SMBs.
No matter the size, most organisations tend to fail in two areas which undermine or slow their performance and growth.
The first one is what we'll talk about today and that is execution.
Making things happen efficiently and effectively is the number one challenge for the majority of companies but unfortunately, most of them don't even admit they have an execution problem or don't place particular importance on it.
And it's not just about how people do work. It's really about how decisions are being made, how individuals are being let to execute on these decisions and then how change is being adopted to manifest the outcome of these decisions.
Few companies have proper project, program and change management practices used consistently in every team and every department. Most organisations tend to leave teams and departments to figure out how they execute. There's nothing wrong with giving autonomy but the result in 99% of the cases are siloed teams with disparate priorities who don't talk to each other and end up doing similar pieces of work and in the end not knowing whether they were truly responsible for it.
When leaders don't organise around a few common goals it's really difficult for the teams to know what matters, where to focus and who to talk to. Companies often end up with too many conflicting priorities and focus becomes diluted.
Cross-functional alignment is critical in complex organisations, but not only. People need to know who is supposed to do what and what result is expected. When that's clear, they feel empowered to not just achieve the results, but go above and beyond.
I’ve seen plenty of projects and initiatives with long lists of steering or executive committees leading nowhere. Why? Because when you put just two (let alone more than two) leaders together to be executive sponsors, they can rarely make a decision that they’re both happy with and come to a compromise. Especially if these are leaders from two different departments, then political games come into play and it becomes just about winning rather than doing the right thing for the initiative. The team that is supposed to do the work becomes frustrated and disempowered. And when this scenario happens multiple times and in most projects in the company, then you have a poor execution culture that makes people leave because progress is simply not happening.
What's often also prevalent is a system that's become very complicated due to teams making their own decisions without aligning with others first. This results in multiple different tools and different processes that each team uses which doesn't allow them to collaborate or to be efficient. People don't know where to go for what, what tool to use for what, what process to follow etc. They slow down having to chase information and become confused.
How Organisations Can Make Things Happen
What I believe needs to happen to truly get things done consistently and effectively in any company is to:
- Define 1-3 key things the entire organisation needs to do.
- Break them down into what this means for each team in a simple way and rally them all around it - cascading of priorities is crucial here.
- Revisit your team org and their responsibilities and remove the overlap.
- Revisit your systems and processes and simplify them - just a few key connected tools is much more powerful than 100 disjointed ones and documentation that people can find and self-serve with can save so much time for everyone.
- Create an execution (project, change management and process) best practice machine and have people use the same tools and processes to do the execution work for initiatives.
- Assign just one executive sponsor and just one ultimate owner to run each initiative.
- Not just complete and launch projects and initiatives, but get them adopted as processes and operations by putting a true focus on change management.
- Promote a culture of sharing so you stop reinventing the wheel and use resources in the most efficient way you can.
This is easier said than done and requires not just buy-in and ownership at the very top level but actually that the very top level recognises execution as a problem.
Ultimately, when the organisation is not organised, growth cannot happen and be sustained.
What's your opinion about organisations failing at getting stuff done?