The Washington Post

Reading Richard Lepsinger’s ‘Closing the Execution Gap’

Author: Richard Lepsinger

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0470531303, 256 pages


“Vision without execution is hallucination,” warned inventor Thomas Edison. CEOs love to focus on vision and strategy, but without execution, vision and strategy can’t accomplish anything. According to HR consultant Richard Lepsinger, who surveyed executives in 409 companies, many organizations suffer from poor execution. He offers solid solutions to that problem, including numerous valuable tips, tools and tactics. Although his writing style is a little heavy on lists and some of the information is obvious, Lepsinger offers a good overview of how to lead employees to execute more effectively. getAbstract recommends his presentation to leaders and managers who are responsible for implementing strategy and turning vision into reality. HR managers will also benefit from Lepsinger’s insights, since he comes from that field.

The gap in execution

Skillful execution – not visionary leaders or elaborate company strategies – is what produces results. Poor execution is problematic in a normal economy and ruinous in a difficult one. The inability to “get stuff done”(to execute) will wreck even the best-laid plans. HR consultant Richard Lepsinger asked 409 executives from diverse industries three questions about execution:

1. “Is there a gap between an organization’s ability to formulate a vision and strategy” and its ability to “achieve business results?”

2. “What differentiates organizations that are more effective at execution from those that are less effective?”

3. “What can leaders do to enhance their organizations’ ability to close the strategy-execution gap and achieve business results?”

Results showed that 49 percent of respondents believe their organizations suffer a gap between strategy and execution, and 64 percent of those who believe a gap exists don’t think their companies can close it. Firms that execute successfully use the following five “bridges” to unite ambition and achievement: 1) Executives handle change well; 2) all business units and management levels coordinate their actions and decisions; 3) managers’ actions match the company’s values and priorities; 4) the firm’s organizational structure supports its strategies; and 5) executives and employees are involved in the decisions that affect them personally.

The leaders of companies that execute well expect, encourage and reward superior performance. They hold their employees accountable for their actions and results. They enable their workforce to focus on the firm’s central priorities.

To span the strategy-execution gap, use these six tactics as “bridge builders:”

“Bridge Builder 1: Translate Strategy into Action”

To execute, you need an action plan. Most organizations do not have one. A solid action plan lets employees know who must do what – and when – in order to execute the company’s strategy. The plan assigns accountability, outlines areas of coordination and sets priorities. An action plan breaks the strategy down into discrete tasks that fulfill the firm’s strategic objectives. Take three steps to create your action plan:

1. “Clarify implementation goals and standards” – Establish the overall project, detail each employee’s role, tasks and responsibilities. Create a definitive “goal statement” and a deadline. Your action plan defines excellence by enumerating project quality standards and delineating tasks and schedules.

2. “Develop an action plan” – Your action plan aids workload management and describes how to measure progress and maintain communication. It segregates work into specific tasks. It includes a detailed schedule with start and end dates, and it outlines requirements for the project, including personnel, funds, and so on.

3. “Minimize risk” – Every plan goes awry. Your action plan must consider unforeseen contingencies…

Click here to read on and receive a free summary of this book courtesy of getAbstract, the world's largest online library of business book summaries. (Available through June 14, 2012.)

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