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Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Anglais) Relié – 4 juin 2002

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The Gap Nobody Knows

The CEO was sitting in his office late one evening, looking tired and drained. He was trying to explain to a visitor why his great strategic initiative had failed, but he couldn't figure out what had gone wrong.

"I'm so frustrated," he said. "I got the group together a year ago, people from all the divisions. We had two off-site meetings, did benchmarking, got the metrics. McKinsey helped us. Everybody agreed with the plan. It was a good one, and the market was good.

"This was the brightest team in the industry, no question about it. I assigned stretch goals. I empowered them-gave them the freedom to do what they needed to do. Everybody knew what had to be done. Our incentive system is clear, so they knew what the rewards and penalties would be. We worked together with high energy. How could we fail?

"Yet the year has come to an end, and we missed the goals. They let me down; they didn't deliver the results. I have lowered earnings estimates four times in the past nine months. We've lost our credibility with the Street. I have probably lost my credibility with the board. I don't know what to do, and I don't know where the bottom is. Frankly, I think the board may fire me."

Several weeks later the board did indeed fire him.

This story-it's a true one-is the archetypal story of the gap that nobody knows. It's symptomatic of the biggest problem facing corporations today. We hear lots of similar stories when we talk to business leaders. They're played out almost daily in the press, when it reports on companies that should be succeeding but aren't: Aetna, AT&T, British Airways, Campbell Soup, Compaq, Gillette, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Procter & Gamble, Xerox, and many others.

These are good companies. They have smart CEOs and talented people, they have inspiring visions, and they bring in the best consultants. Yet they, and many other companies as well, regularly fail to produce promised results. Then when they announce the shortfall, investors dump their stocks and enormous market value is obliterated. Managers and employees are demoralized. And increasingly, boards are forced to dump the CEOs.

The leaders of all the companies listed above were highly regarded when they were appointed-they seemed to have all of the right qualifications. But they all lost their jobs because they didn't deliver what they said they would. In the year 2000 alone, forty CEOs of the top two hundred companies on Fortune's 500 list were removed-not retired but fired or made to resign. When 20 percent of the most powerful business leaders in America lose their jobs, something is clearly wrong. This trend continued in 2001 and will clearly be in evidence in 2002.

In such cases it's not just the CEO who suffers-so do the employees, alliance partners, shareholders, and even customers. And it's not just the CEO whose shortcomings create the problem, though of course he or she is ultimately responsible.

What is the problem? Is it a rough business environment? Yes. Whether the economy is strong or weak, competition is fiercer than ever. Change comes faster than ever. Investors-who were passive when today's senior leaders started their careers-have turned unforgiving. But this factor by itself doesn't explain the near-epidemic of shortfalls and failures. Despite this, there are companies that deliver on their commitments year in and year out-companies such as GE, Wal-Mart, Emerson, Southwest Airlines, and Colgate-Palmolive.

When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the CEO's strategy was wrong. But the strategy by itself is not often the cause. Strategies most often fail because they aren't executed well. Things that are supposed to happen don't happen. Either the organizations aren't capable of making them happen, or the leaders of the business misjudge the challenges their companies face in the business environment, or both.

Former Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer had an ambitious strategy, and he almost pulled it off. Before any of his competitors, he saw that the so-called Wintel architecture-the combination of the Windows operating system and Intel's constant innovation-would serve for everything from a palm-held to a linked network of servers capable of competing with mainframes.

Mirroring IBM, Pfeiffer broadened his base to serve all the computing needs of enterprise customers. He bought Tandem, the high-speed, failsafe mainframe manufacturer, and Digital Equipment Company (DEC) to give Compaq serious entry into the services segment. Pfeiffer moved at breakneck speed on his bold strategic vision, transforming Compaq from a failing niche builder of high-priced office PCs to the second-biggest computer company (after IBM) in just six years. By 1998 it was poised to dominate the industry.

But the strategy looks like a pipe dream today. Integrating the acquisitions and delivering on the promises required better execution than Compaq was able to achieve. More fundamentally, neither Pfeiffer nor his successor, Michael Capellas, pursued the kind of execution necessary to make money as PCs became more and more of a commodity business.

Michael Dell understood that kind of execution. His direct-sales and build-to-order approach was not just a marketing tactic to bypass retailers; it was the core of his business strategy. Execution is the reason Dell passed Compaq in market value years ago, despite Compaq's vastly greater size and scope, and it's the reason Dell passed Compaq in 2001 as the world's biggest maker of PCs. As of November 2001, Dell was shooting to double its market share, from approximately 20 to 40 percent.

Any company that sells direct has certain advantages: control over pricing, no retail markups, and a sales force dedicated to its own products. But that wasn't Dell's secret. After all, Gateway sells direct too, but lately it has fared no better than Dell's other rivals. Dell's insight was that building to order, executing superbly, and keeping a sharp eye on costs would give him an unbeatable advantage.

In conventional batch production manufacturing, a business sets its production volume based on the demand that is forecast for the coming months. If it has outsourced component manufacturing and just does the assembling, like a computer maker, it tells the component suppliers what volumes to expect and negotiates the prices. If sales fall short of projections, everybody gets stuck with unsold inventory. If sales are higher, they scramble inefficiently to meet demand.

Building to order, by contrast, means producing a unit after the customer's order is transmitted to the factory. Component suppliers, who also build to order, get the information when Dell's customers place their orders. They deliver the parts to Dell, which immediately places them into production, and shippers cart away the machines within hours after they're boxed. The system squeezes time out of the entire cycle from order to delivery-Dell can deliver a computer within a week or less of the time an order is placed. This system minimizes inventories at both ends of the pipeline, incoming and outgoing. It also allows Dell customers to get the latest technological improvements more often than rivals' customers.

Build-to-order improves inventory turnover, which increases asset velocity, one of the most underappreciated components of making money. Velocity is the ratio of sales dollars to net assets deployed in the business,

which in the most common definition includes plant and equipment, inventories, and accounts receivable minus accounts payable. Higher velocity improves productivity and reduces working capital. It also improves cash flow, the life blood of any business, and can help improve margins as well as revenue and market share.

Inventory turns are especially important for makers of PCs, since inventories account for the largest portion of their net assets. When sales fall below forecast, companies with traditional batch manufacturing, like Compaq, are stuck with unsold inventory. What's more, computer components such as microprocessors are particularly prone to obsolescence because performance advances so rapidly, often accompanied by falling prices. When these PC makers have to write off the excess or obsolete inventory, their profit margins can shrink to the vanishing point.

Dell turns its inventory over eighty times a year, compared with about ten to twenty times for its rivals, and its working capital is negative. As a result, it generates an enormous amount of cash. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002, with revenues of $8.1 billion and an operating margin of 7.4 percent, Dell had cash flow of $1 billion from operations. Its return on invested capital for Fiscal 2001 was 355 percent-an incredible rate for a company with its sales volume. Its high velocity also allows it to give customers the latest technological improvements ahead of other makers, and to take advantage of falling component costs-either to improve margins or to cut prices.

These are the reasons Dell's strategy became deadly for its competitors once PC growth slowed. Dell capitalized on their misery and cut prices in a bid for market share, increasing the distance between it and the rest of the industry. Because of its high velocity, Dell could show high return on capital and positive cash flow, even with margins depressed. Its competition couldn't.

The system works only because Dell executes meticulously at every stage. The electronic linkages among suppliers and manufacturing create a seamless extended enterprise. A manufacturing executive we know who worked at Dell for a time calls its system "the best manufacturing operation I've ever seen."

As this book goes to press, the merger between Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, proposed in mid-2001, is still up in the air. No matter: Alone or in combination, nothing they do will make them competitive with Dell unless they come up with an equal or better build-to-order production model.

The chronic underperformers we've mentioned so far have lots of company. Countless others are less than they could be because of poor execution. The gap between promises and results is widespread and clear. The gap nobody knows is the gap between what a company's leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organization to achieve it.

Everybody talks about change. In recent years, a small industry of changemeisters has preached revolution, reinvention, quantum change, breakthrough thinking, audacious goals, learning organizations, and the like. We're not necessarily debunking this stuff. But unless you translate big thoughts into concrete steps for action, they're pointless. Without execution, the breakthrough thinking breaks down, learning adds no value, people don't meet their stretch goals, and the revolution stops dead in its tracks. What you get is change is for the worse, because failure drains the energy from your organization. Repeated failure destroys it.

These days we're hearing a more practical phrase on the lips of business leaders. They're talking about taking their organizations to the "next level," which brings the rhetoric down to earth. GE CEO Jeff Immelt, for example, is asking his people how they can use technology to differentiate their way to the next level and command better prices, margins, and revenue growth.

This is an execution approach to change. It's reality-based-people can envision and discuss specific things they need to do. It recognizes that meaningful change comes only with execution.

No company can deliver on its commitments or adapt well to change unless all leaders practice the discipline of execution at all levels. Execution has to be a part of a company's strategy and its goals. It is the missing link between aspirations and results. As such, it is a major-indeed, the major-job of a business leader. If you don't know how to execute, the whole of your effort as a leader will always be less than the sum of its parts.

Revue de presse

“If you want to be a CEO—or if you are a CEO and want to keep your job—read Execution and put its principles to work.”
—Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell Computer Corp.

“Good practical insight and advice on managing for results at firms of any size. Execution is key, and this book clearly explains what it means and how it brings together the critical elements of any organization—its people, strategies, and operations.” —L. R. Raymond, chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil

“The best-thought-out plans in the world aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if you can’t pull them off. And that’s what this book is all about. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done is well written and gives sound, practical advice about how to make things happen. It is well worth the reading.” —Ralph S. Larsen, chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

“Larry Bossidy recognizes how execution in a business defines the true greatness of a company. He captures a lifetime of building winning formulas and puts them in a simple and practical context for executives at any level. Read it!” —Ivan Seidenberg, president and co–chief executive officer, Verizon

“For those managers who have struggled to make it happen, fix a problem, get it done—or otherwise transform winning strategies into genuine results—here’s the missing medicine from two who know from long experience what works and what doesn’t. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan offer a compelling leadership prescription, and it comes down to realism, discipline, and above all, great execution.”
—Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan define the true meaning of leadership from an implementation point of view. Larry is the expert on productivity in the world of business, and this book demonstrates how leadership is the key to achieving ongoing financial success.” —Richard Schroeder, cofounder of Six Sigma Academy

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index
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377 internautes sur 393 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Discipline of Getting Done With This Book 7 juin 2006
Par Andrew Schonbek - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
My dogged desire to get through this book ruined the first half of a windsurfing vacation in Aruba.

It's very, very dry going, and at the end one wonders what, if anything the authors really had to say.

It sounds on the surface like cutting edge management practice. For instance Bossidy and Charan introduce the concept of "the social software of execution" as a key element for creating the framework for cultural change in the organization. They go on to elaborate, "A key component of software is what we call Social Operating Mechanisms". At this point I was on the edge of my chair, ready to absorb what was being teed up as an idea of potentially transformational impact. So what are Social Operating Mechanisms? The authors go on to explain, "These are formal or informal meetings, presentations, even memos or e-mail exchanges - anywhere that dialogue takes place".

Wow - this is really deep stuff...

One wonders why the authors don't simply refer to communication rather than Social Operating Mechanisms. And, as a separate matter, the lack of literacy is surprising. Since when, for example, are memos and e-mail exchanges places?

Stripped of all of this, what the authors have to say is simple common sense that can be summarized as follows:

* Successful companies have the important ability to get things done (or execute).

* Good leadership (knowing people, setting clear goals, following through, etc.) is a prerequisite of execution.

* Reward systems, communications, and feedback processes need to foster action and provide incentives for getting things done.

* Some people are more capable than others are to get things done. These are the people that should be put in positions of authority in the organization.

* Strategic plans need to reflect the real world and link to operational plans. They also need to be tested for feasibility in the context of the organization's capabilities.

None of this is rocket science, that is until one begins to cloak it in management techno speak such as that described above.

And one more thing. The editor should have had a "robust conversation" with the authors about their overuse of the word "robust". It's really annoying.
240 internautes sur 261 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Check your own personality for execution traits 3 août 2004
Par Peter Leerskov - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
What's left to say about this book on execution? With 130 online reviews many issues are covered already. One point's missing, though. Look at the reviews; they are divided into two camps. The reviewers either think this is a mediocre book with very basic ideas (management 101) or they see the light. The latter realize that there's no need for new acronyms or faddy words in the management-speak. "Execution" is about getting things done, being persistent and realistic, as well as managing the 3 core processes; strategy (why? and what?), operations (how?) and people (who?).

Building a performance culture is never as easy as it sounds. Looking back a few years, try to recall a few of those companies with great media attention and grand strategic visions. Many of them failed. And many of them will fail again and again, because the heroes are strategic visionaries that never bothered to deal with the issue of execution; continually and personally making sure that things were actually done. You know, when all is said and done, usually more is said than done...

If you found this book fascinating, you'll probably have some of the execution traits hidden in your personality preferences. If you want to check it out, you might visit some of free Internet sites for a test (e.g. keirsey.com). For a business, I believe it's paramount to make sure that you have a well-balanced team on all levels in the hierarchy. This also includes having enough executives with execution traits. Advice: Don't assume you have it; test it!

Conclusively, this is a great book. I liked it so much that I even also bought the audio version! The reason for the audio version is that these execution ideas simply are needed to be absorbed over several readings (or listenings). Otherwise, you won't be able to start changing your behavior (which you can change, unlike your innate preferences). While commuting, I often turn the CDs on and find it inspiring to forget about traffic jams and just getting the views of Charan and Bossidy in their own voices. However, I do agree that the book easily could have been shorter.

Peter Leerskov,
MSc in International Business (Marketing & Management) and Graduate Diploma in E-business
82 internautes sur 87 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Tips for the CEOs and Group Heads of Large Conglomerates 12 juin 2003
Par Donald Mitchell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Larry Bossidy is clearly a five-star leader, and Ram Charan is a gifted consultant and teacher. It surprised me that their book didn't work as well as I had hoped.
Execution's title confused me. Hopefully, you won't have that problem. I thought Execution would be all about how to take a strategy and operating plan and implement them well. Instead, Part III makes it clear that Execution is about meeting overall financial objectives through being an effective organization in setting strategies and operating plans to serve customers well while building an organization that can implement the plans for outperforming competitors. Part I, by contrast, makes it sound like Execution is only about implementation, noting that almost all organizations have the same strategies (or can quickly get them from consultants), access the same top talent and can easily acquire and employ competitively effective innovation.
I also thought Execution would apply to all business people. Instead, the context for most of the AlliedSignal (Honeywell International's name when Mr. Bossidy became CEO there the first time) and General Electric examples which dominate the book is that of the CEO or group executive to whom divisions report in a large conglomerate. In this sense, Execution is like reading the latter chapters of Mr. Welch's book, Jack.
The main difference between Jack and Execution is that Execution tries to build a framework for the book's concepts while sharing examples (mostly of failure) from other organizations. Mr. Charan's sections of the book mostly focus on that positioning. Mr. Bossidy mostly tells about his own experiences at AlliedSignal and Honeywell. Mr. Bossidy, of course, worked with Mr. Welch at General Electric for many years. Mr. Bossidy reports that you could take execution for granted at GE, but that it was lacking at AlliedSignal when he arrived. The two coauthors alternate in providing long monologues on the chapter topics and subtopics.
Three aspects of Execution are valuable to almost any business leader: how to hold a strategy review (chapter 8), building an organization (chapter 5) and the "Dear Jane" letter to a new leader (conclusion).
For those who would like to become CEOs and heads of divisions of large, disparate organizations, Mr. Bossidy's many anecdotes from his experiences at Honeywell International about how to do the leader's job will provide a valuable model that can be used repeatedly. In many such organizations, there are no good leadership examples and this book can help fill the gap.
Here's the book's structure:
Part I: Why Execution Is Needed
Chapter 1. The Gap Nobody Knows
Chapter 2. The Execution Difference
Part II: The Building Blocks of Execution
Chapter 3. Building Block One: The Leader's Seven Essential Behaviors
Chapter 4. Building Block Two: Creating the Framework for Cultural Change
Chapter 5. Building Block Three: The Job No Leader Should Delegate -- Having the Right People in the Right Place
Part III: The Three Core Processes of Execution
Chapter 6. The People Process: Making the Link with Strategy and Operations
Chapter 7. The Strategy Process: Making the Link with People and Operations
Chapter 8. How to Conduct a Strategy Review
Chapter 9. The Operations Process: Making the Link with Strategy and People
Conclusion: Letter to a New Leader
Execution addresses these problems. First, many company and division heads have little knowledge about the businesses or the most important functions and processes needed to prosper. Boards, for example, often bring in a brilliant person who has performed as a "role player" elsewhere, and they cannot scale up into the CEO job. When a company has had poor leadership, its processes and organization also become weak and it's hard to get anything done. There are several poignant examples including Richard Thoman at Xerox and Richard McGinn at Lucent Technologies. It's hard to fix that problem. It took years at AlliedSignal and can be quickly lost (which happened in the two years after he retired the first time). That's why Mr. Bossidy had to come back to restore execution (as he means it) at Honeywell International. Lacking these perspectives, the business system is misdirected (see The Fifth Discipline).
Second, many leaders make bad assumptions about their circumstances. Acting on those assumptions makes matters worse.
Third, companies plan to pursue strategies for which they lack the processes and organizations to implement. The strategies need to match the ability to execute.
As a solution, you as leader must:
"--Know your people and your business
--Insist on realism
--Set clear goals and priorities
--Follow through
--Reward the doers
--Expand people's capabilities
--Know yourself."
I was uncomfortable with many of the examples. The unending praise of Dick Brown at EDS didn't seem to make any sense knowing that EDS's stock melted down and he was asked to leave. He was in big trouble when Execution was written, having encouraged his people to grow by taking on large unprofitable new accounts. It seems like he might have been executing the wrong strategy, one that couldn't be executed. Most of the "failure" examples are anonymous which makes them less credible and less compelling. Finally, Dell is heralded for executing very well (which it certainly does). However, in describing how the company has evolved its business model to outperform competitors, Execution fails to notice that its business model innovation has been essential to success. No competitor has this business model. Execution's assumption that everyone can have the same strategy ignores research that shows that business model innovation creates unique strategies and superior execution compared to making the old business model and strategy more efficient.
Unless you are shooting to be CEO of GE or Honeywell International, I suspect that you would do better to read Good to Great for getting ideas related to improving effectiveness.
After you finish this book, ask yourself what one thing you could improve would make the most difference in your organization's performance over the next week, month, quarter, year and three years.
236 internautes sur 272 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
How, Why, and Why Not 1 juin 2002
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This may well prove to be one of the most influential business books published in recent years. In it, Bossidy and Charan (with Charles Burck) focus on what effective execution involves. Having read or observed interviews of Bossidy, I realized while reading this book that his is the primary role in the collaboration. Mercifully, the reader is spared vague theories as well as buzzing words and overheated phrases. Anchored in a wealth of real-world business experience, the book's core insights could be of substantial value to literally anyone who currently has problems "getting things done", doing them well, and on-time.
In the first chapter, the authors identify what they call "the gap nobody knows." That is somewhat hyperbolic. Obviously Bossidy and Charan are aware of it as are, presumably, countless other decision-makers in various companies which sustain profitability while attracting and then retaining "the best and the brightest" people, often from competitor companies. In any event, the authors correctly stress the importance of eliminating the gap between recognizing what must be done and getting it done. The authors focus on three former CEOs of major corporations, each of whom they hold in high regard: Richard A. McGinn (Lucent Technologies) G. Richard Thoman (Xerox), and C. Michael Armstrong (AT&T). However, McGinn was "clearly out of touch" with day-to-day operations during his last year as CEO. For whatever reasons, Thoman lacked two essential "building blocks": the right people in key positions on his management team, and, appropriate core processes by which to implement his strategy, one which the authors view as being sound. As for Armstrong, the ambitious growth strategy he pursued was "disconnected from both external and internal realities" such as the regulatory climate at that time and the AT&T culture which was resistant to the major changes which Armstrong's strategy required. These three examples illustrate that even those with exceptional intelligence, energy, and character can fail to achieve their worthy objectives. The authors acknowledge that "Shaping the broad picture into a set of executable actions is analytical, and it's a huge intellectual, and emotional challenge." Some organizations and their leaders succeed. This book explains how. Most organizations and their leaders do not. This book explains why.
Some readers of this review may incorrectly infer from my comments thus far that this book was written primarily for and about senior-level corporate executives. For that reason, I reiterate that all of the observations, evaluations, and suggestions provided in this book are directly relevant to almost anyone in any organization (regardless of size or nature) who is expected to "get things done," whatever those "things" may be. I agree completely with Noel Tichy (author of The Leadership Engine) that every organization needs aggressive and productive initiative at all levels.
Including the word "discipline" in this book's title was intentional and is appropriate. Obviously, those who are decisive are not always successful. (What I call the "Fire! Ready! Aim! Syndrome" is far too common, especially among less-experienced but eager and ambitious executives.) The most effective decision-making process is one based on sufficient and relevant information which has been rigorously analyzed. (Thus evaluated, information becomes intelligence.) Relevant and (especially) painful realities are taken into full account. All appropriate options are identified and prioritized. When a major crisis occurs which requires an immediate response, the decision-maker(s) involved must also have courage. Discipline is essential throughout this entire process, a discipline which includes what Daniel Goleman characterizes as "emotional intelligence" or what Ernest Hemingway characterizes as "grace under duress."
As indicated previously, I think this book will be of great value to any decision-maker (regardless of title or status) in any organization (regardless of size or nature) because the authors focus relentlessly on HOW some decision-makers get results and WHY most others don't. I recommend this book to individual executives, of course, but also to those involved in management training programs which involve others. (It would be terrific for developing "fast trackers."). Also, if and when appropriate, this book in combination with Michael Hammer's The Agenda would be an excellent "homework assignment" to be completed prior to an executive retreat or (as some prefer) advance. Moreover, I think anyone in the management consulting business should also read it. If ever there was a time when clients expect those such as I to help them "get things done," is it now.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Hammer's book as well as David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Jim O'Toole's Leading Change and The Executive's Compass, and Kaplan and Norton's The Strategy-Focused Organization.
28 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Are you the one to get it done? 27 juin 2002
Par Bruce V. Culver - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The two authors have obviously worked together before writing this book and have now collaborated on practical lessons learned that leaders should want to stay sharp on. I have met Ram Charan at numerous meetings and found that his greatest strength is challenging people to think. I do not always agree with his insights, but I do like how he makes me and the reader think about how they act as a leader.
Now I will tell you that I learned from Larry Bossidy's comments in the book. I actually sought out his comments as the book went on. Why? Well, each and every section that he contributed was no nonsense, practical advice. It appeared to me that his comments were straight from his thoughts, as if he were speaking. Spontaneous and candid. I made a list of take-away actions that I wanted to check myself on or apply in the future.
The basic principles of the book are simple: identify the best people, give them clear objectives, challenge them to improve and check up on them frequently. It sounds too simple...but the simple things that Bossidy mentions are the important aspects of the book. Listening. Writing follow-up letters outlining the expectations of the leaders previous day interactions with the boss. Talking with people to find out for yourself what is going on, how people are being managed, what management is doing right and what they are doing wrong.
I found the advice from Bossidy the real key to the book. I especially recommend this for all leaders that think execution is something that is delegated for others to do. I also recommend this for any leader, no matter what size company, to validate the basics in their personal toolkit...are you "executing" the basics?
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