Ideas vs. Execution

As a consultant it is always fun to talk about the importance of planning and innovation.  Lots of time is spent brainstorming and trying to figure out the perfect organizational structure and the right processes to keep the enterprise running efficiently.  Tons of time can be spent analyzing environmental changes and the different strategic scenarios that might be considered based on this uncertainty.  The latest thinking out of business schools and think tanks are important to debate, discuss and integrate into plans.  All of this work is a worthy exercise but the most important key to success is to actually execute.  That’s right, to actually get work done.

Over the holidays I ran across a very interesting piece that looked at the initial business plan for Intel.  Everyone knows the company today as one of the biggest most powerful multi-national corporations with over 100,000 employees and a market cap of over $100 billion.  Take a look at its original business plan written in the 1960’s and see if you would have invested in this group.  Obviously, the investors must have seen something in the founders of Intel that went well beyond their ability to write a plan.  Their forecasting and  organizational design skills must not have been their key selling point.  People must have invested in them because they trusted they could actually do something.

In today’s business environment, perhaps because of all the analytics and data available for analysis, it seems like way too much time and effort goes into planning and too little into execution.  With over 30 years experience working with product mangers and other pharmaceutical executives I can clearly say that those that succeed actually get things done.  They hit deadlines and measure accomplishments not time spent debating, attending meetings and doing emails.  They are able to maneuver the approval processes in their organization and get jobs done.  They know that nothing matters until the customer sees and experiences the tactic.  They recognize how important it is to get product use today rather than a month or so from now.

Some of the most important lessons I have picked up from successful executives in our industry might help in this regard.  Working with a “sense of urgency” separates the average marketer from the star.  Understanding that perfection is way too costly and takes too much time.  Unless you are a brain surgeon or a nuclear scientist you need to execute the tactic or as Seth Godin would say “ship the product” when it is very good rather than constantly waiting until it is absolutely perfect.  Simplicity is much more important than complexity.  There is way too much noise out in the marketplace and when you try to get too cute in the design the message misses its mark.  Try to think of any commercial you saw on television over the last week and then try to figure out what the message was and how it impacted you.  It is very tough for me to even remember the commercials.

People are always trying to figure out how to get promoted and my number one message is for them to get their current work done and make it look easy.  This will show the organization you are ready to step up to the next level.  If it looks like your “to do” list is like Santa’s Christmas list you are in trouble.  If you are constantly pushing back deadlines the job looks like it is too complex for you.  If you don’t keep track of things you have finished and their impact on the market and use these as your scorecard then you don’t seem to understand the importance of results over just working.

The new year is a time for setting goals and for making change.  Perhaps the biggest motivator according to experts is the ability to finish a job.  The more things you complete in a day, the more motivated you will be for the next day.  Sounds simple but it is true.  Design your work so that you can finish things.   Finish every day with more things on your “completed” list and fewer things on your “to do” list and you might be surprised how much your overall performance increases.  It is all about execution.

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