Execution - Making It Happen 



No Matter How Brilliant the Strategy --  What´s Not Communicated Is Hard to Execute!

"The biggest problem with communication is that you think it has been accomplished." Bernard Shaw



    1) Introduction

    2) The CEO as Chief Evangelist Officer

    3) Communicating the Strategy: "You walk the walk. You talk the talk. Now let´s see if you´re real."

    4) Pike´s Laws of Adult Learning

    5) Power and the Role of Corporate Tribes

    6) High Intensity Teams for High Impact Tasks (HIT/HIT).


    1) Introduction




Communication/transformation slide:  determines


    Even if you meet the criterion of having a strategy and tactics that are truly cogent, the battle has not yet begun! You still must execute. As Eisenhower1 said, "Planning is everything.  The plan is nothing."  

    Execution is a function of leadership and communication, including negotiation. The role of leadership is universally acknowledged. The role of negotiation is often conspicuous by its absence. Yet forming and implementing a strategy involves a series of negotiations with internal and external stakeholders. Negotiation, the neglected stepdaughter of execution, is therefore treated on this website at length. In fact it is elevated a level from an Execution subpage to a Services subpage.

    The process of planning, of forming the strategy, should be a learning process, regardless of the tools and techniques used. The extent of involvement in providing input to a plan largely determines "buy-in." Excellent execution of a "B" plan by enthusiastic people committed to its success, will, over the long run, emerge victorious over the masterful" A" plan being carried out by people who are merely doing their jobs.


2) The CEO as Chief Evangelist Officer

    You do not need to be a Lee Iococa, Steve Jobs or a media magnate to convey commitment and enthusiasm, to proselyte high potentials, to transform a corporate culture. Crucial is (a) to be able to inspire people (b) to do the right things. The ability to do so in turn depends upon communication skills and a real understanding of power.

    One needs to overcome the implacable power of organizational misocainea and its equally evil brother misoneism.* One needs to gain the support of the "corporate tribes" and understand the influences upon them, including the messages from the marketplace. Above all, one needs to realize how one´s actions will be perceived. The leader´s actions speak, resound and echo decibels louder and considerably longer than noiseless memos!

* Misocainea is the hatred of new ideas. Misoneism is the hatred of change.


3) Communicating the Strategy: "You talk the talk. You  walk the walk. Now let´s see if you´re real."

    3.1 -  The Fatal Footnote

    Long ago, well before the advent of Six Sigma and TQM, a newly promoted CEO in the U.S. made his concerns about quality clear with his reaction to the publication of the glossy annual report. He discovered a typographical error in a footnote to the Appendices. He ordered the annual report scrapped and a new one published -- and annual reports are not cheap. 
    The re-printing of the annual report because of a single typo, buried in small print at the end of a footnote, which no one would notice anyway, was carried by the press. Customers noticed, and so did the company's managers, who became apprehensive. If that were the CEO's fanatical, in fact, insane, reaction to a footnote glitch, how would he react to a real mistake?


    3.2 -  The Sledgehammer

    Haier is a Chinese firm with 70,000 employees and with a world-leading 6% share of the total market for white goods (2011). The firm's origins are from a Joint Venture between the German Liebherr, the worldwide leader in premium refridgeration, and the Quindao Refridgerator Company in China. (For an aside about the 800 year technological development, see "V. A Postscript, Ice versus the Computer - The Refridgerator Sprint!" at The Q-Methodology, About Us. ) The moribund Chinese state firm, $10 million in debt, was taken over by a young tiger, Zhang Ruimin, in 1984.

A disgruntled customer appeared at the factory with a defective refridgerator. With him Zhang looked for a replacement, examining all the refridgerators in stock. Zhang discovered another 76 defective ones.

    Zhang had the 76 lined up on the factory floor and had sledgehammers brought. He told the factory workers to destroy the bad product. The workers hesitated. A refridgerator at that time cost the equivalent of two years of a worker's wages.

    "When Zhang saw the distress his workers exhibited, some even to the point of tears, he exclaimed: "If we don't destory these refregerators today, what is to be shattered by the market in the future will be this enterprise!" The    refridgerators were smashed to pieces. Zhang himself took part in the attack on poor product quality. One of the hammers remains on display at company headquarters as a reminder to posterity." (Wikipedia, 2011)

    In 1991 the company was renamed Haier (the choice of name influenced by "Liebherr) and Zhang also enrolled, at the age of 42, for a Masters from the prestigious University of Science and Technology. He continues as CEO of Haier to this day (2011) and is one of the most respected and influential business leaders in China.


    What the fatal footnote and the swinging sledgehammers had in common is that standards started being enforced. Quality across the board improved. Lost customers came back and profits started a long-term climb. Of course the new emphasis on quality was conveyed in many different ways, and almost constantly. But both the footnote and the sledgehammer became company legends to convey an unforgettable quality message.


4) Pike´s Laws of Adult Learning

    In much of the literature about strategy there is little about communicating it within the company, and, as appropriate, to the customers and to the world at large. The latter includes, of course, the competitors. How do people learn about your strategy? Many managers have sophisticated educations. In large corporations, the overwhelming majority of them do.

    Yet hardly any of them prefer the sophisticated communication beloved in academia, and certainly present in the corporate world. Even the best companies generate all kinds of gobbledygook. Just read some of the putid* mission and vision statements of huge, well-run, profitable Fortune 500 companies.

* putid  means worthless, not to be confused with putrid, which means decayed, foul; morally corrupt.


    Therefore Pike´s Laws of Adult Learning are worth bearing in mind from two points of view: (1) managers communcating strategies, and (2) coaches assisting their formation and implementation. Robert W. Pike, an American trainer, wrote the excellent: Creative Training Techniques Handbook: Tips, Tactics, and How-To's for Delivering Effective Training, 1989, revised 2003. He specializes in training trainers, and has authored or co-authored 29 books. His most recent is The Fun Minute Manager (May 2009), which he wrote with Robert C. Ford and John Newstrom.

    In Creative Training he presents five laws of adult learning that one is well advised to bear in mind. The parenthetical comments in italics are by Bridges.


    PIKE´S FIRST LAW:  Adults are babies with big bodies. (Maybe, at any rate          sometimes, if one considers the darker moments of office politics.)

    PIKE´S SECOND LAW: People don´t argue with their own data. (True.)

    PIKE´S THIRD LAW: Learning is directly proportional to the amount of fun you      have. (Or to the carrot/stick ratio.)

    PIKE´S FOURTH LAW: Learning has not taken place until behavior has                 changed. (Too true.)


                     What I hear, I forget.

                     What I see, I remember.

                        What I do, I understand.

                         Confucius 451 B.C.


    Which one may adapt for coaches and mentors in reference to their clients as:

                     What they hear, they tend to ignore.

                     What they see, they tend to forget.

                     What they do, they tend to remember.

                     What they intentionally get others to do, they understand.


    One key function of executive coaching is to improve managers´ability to communicate with clarity, i.e. through consistant actions. One can write one hundred memos about the need for better quality on the finishing of a product. Or you can order a unit scrapped upon finding a 1 cm. fading or minute scratch on a backside corner.

    Which gets talks about more, gets remembered, sends the clearer message that you are deadly serious about this issue? The repeated memos or the deliberate over-reaction? A minute scratch can provide a powerful tool to communicate one´s strategy, especially if one has a message that "goes viral," on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

    However social media is a subject sui generis. It is more properly treated at marketing strategy under branding, advertising and public relations. Nonetheless, an admonition is warranted. The attractiveness of potentially "going viral" often deafens one to the associated risks. The catchy phrases below apply equally well to the internal negotiations about strategy and to what appears on-line and in the social media. Coaches -- and CEOs -- beware!

                     What is spoken, may not be heard.

                     What is heard, may not be understood.

                     What is understood, may not be accepted.

                           B. Scott, The Skills of Negotiating,                                                                                                                                 Wildwood House, 1981, p. 65.


5) Power and the Role of Corporate Tribe

    "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell someone you are, you´re not." Margaret Thatcher

You don´t acquire power by studying it, any more than you learn how to manage, negotiate or coach just by studying about it. However you can broaden your scope and sharpen your skills with some judicious reading. Recommended is to begin with fascinating The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green, Viking, 1998. It treats con-men and kings, emperors and explorers over a period of 3,000 years. 


6) High Intensity Teams for High Impact Tactics (HIT/HIT)

    High Intensity Teams, more commonly termed High Performance Teams and Self-Directed Work Teams, have ancient military options (commando and reconnaissance units). On of the first modern studies of them in organizations outside of the military was done by the Tavisstock Institute in England in the 1950s.  (This institute for organizational research was founded in 1946 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. It also offers executive coaching.) Among the many people doing research on teams now are Bradford S. Bell, Deborah Daniel Dufrene,Darelson R. Foryth, Steve Kozlowski and Eduardo Salas (all in the U.S.). Extensive research has also been conducted in Scandinavia.

    High performance teams enjoyed a surge in popularity in the U.S. in the 1980s, when they were adopted by leading Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric (GE) and Boeing. Their introduction involved a transformation in those companies of their organization and corporate culture. The success of GE and Boeing with such teams led to many imitators in the U.S.

    However many of the imitators did not adequately prepare for the transformation (“did not do their homework”).  Consequently many failed. By 1995 high performance teams were no longer much in favor. Nevertheless, some companies, above all GE, have continued to use such teams very successfully. Therefore as of 2005 they have come under increasing scrutiny, not only by companies, but also by the public sector.

    Perhaps the most neglected aspect by the “late adapters” was just how demanding the selection process needs to be. In the U.S., after one has finished basic training (often just three months), if one has done well, one may be given the opportunity for further training. At jump school for recon in the Marine Corps and for elite Army units such as the 82nd and 101st Airborne, before the soldiers even get to see a parachute, the instrutors introduce themselves. They have done this in the same way for decades. They have these chosen soldiers stand at attention and then say to them: "Look to the man at your left. Look to the man at your right. At the end of jump school, only one of the three of you will still be here."

    Colin L. Powell, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1st Gulf War and later the U.S. Secretary of State under President George Bush, made an interesting comment about leadership in his autobiography. Any officer could get exceptional performance from elite troops. The mark of a real general was to get extraordinary performance from ordinary troops. Alexander the Great and Napoleon would concur. 

    Returning to the world of commerce, when a friend joined a U.S. forestry and paper company for a new factory in South Carolina in the 1980s, the selection was even more rigorous. Advertisements were placed nationally for the factory workers, who were to be formed into self-directed work teams.  One candidate in 50 was hired after a selection process that took place over a period of weeks – multiple tests, repeated interviews.

1 Dwight David Eisenhower 1890-1969, led the Allied invasion of North Africa and France in World War II, was the military governor of Germany in 1945, the leading general for NATO from 1950-52 and as President of the U.S. 1953-1961 enjoyed great popularity.


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