Stop Lurching from Crisis to Crisis
There’s an old saying that once identified, a problem is already half-solved. The challenge is diagnosing and treating the right disease and not the symptoms. In today’s convulsive economic environment, that effort is growing increasingly difficult as business leaders confront no shortage of challenges literally screaming for their attention. If asked, these leaders likely would describe their biggest problem as the issue they’re facing right at the moment — growth, communication, productivity, hiring, global competition, costs or competition, to name but a few.
While on the surface you can make a compelling case to tackle any one of these issues, they are not the primary focus of running a business. “No matter what the problems are today,” says Gary Harpst in his new book, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution, “they’ll be different tomorrow and they will be bigger. There is one business problem that, if solved, makes solving all other problems easier.”
He argues persuasively that learning how to plan and execute strategy is the cornerstone capability any organization should have if it wants to achieve excellence in its field. He believes that most business leaders begin with visions of excellence dancing in their heads and hearts. However, buffeted by external and internal challenges that compete for their attention, many of these business leaders lose sight of this vision. Instead, they have adopted a reactive, firefighting mentality that derails their pursuit of excellence.
Diagnosing the Real Problem
By focusing on achieving operational excellence, business leaders will be in a better position to deal with all the other problems on their radar screen. Excellence, according to Harpst, is not some vague, nebulous management concept. Rather, it results from ongoing efforts to balance strategy and execution.
Harpst is not some modern-day snake oil salesman, repackaging simplistic and naive management solutions. Instead, his insightful tome draws heavily from the experience, research, field testing, and proven best practices he has inspired and developed in 27 years as CEO and co-founder of three businesses, including Solomon Software. The vision he lays out charts a new course for how business leaders can finally confront the challenge of planning and executing strategy.
In so doing, he reveals the three major obstacles that have to be overcome if business leaders are to be successful — insufficient expertise, prohibitive economics and simple human aversion to change — and the strategies to overcome them. He charts a carefully calibrated and holistic course that takes the reader through various business improvement disciplines, including quality programs, business process best practices, personal productivity tools, business intelligence, strategy formulation, virtual community development and business coaching.
The Strategic Prescription
At the core of Harpst’s recommendations is developing a continuous loop methodology that involves strategy, planning, organizing, executing and innovating, all of which combine to drive organizational learning and understanding. Without such discipline, learning becomes nothing more than an endless process of missteps, trial and error, and firefighting. Such a focus also ensures that individual performance and activities align with what’s important to the company.
Sadly, only one out of three employees understands their employer’s business strategy. Why? Mainly, because it hasn’t been communicated to them. Without this necessary direction, innovation and results are limited. As your organization grows, your challenge to communicate with employees grows exponentially faster. By connecting team activities with company goals, Six Disciplines Execution Revolution helps you address the communication challenge in an ongoing, systematic way.
While larger business have always had the luxury of budgets, technologies and resources to meet these challenges, Harpst’s prescriptive tome encourages the small and midsized businesses that now have a tremendous opportunity to level the playing field; leapfrog the expensive, outdated approaches of the past; and attack the challenge of execution in a revolutionary way.