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Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan's 'Execution' can be summarized into 7 essential behaviors:
1)Know your people and know the details of your business. (The latter point counters those contending that a 'good manager can manage any enterprise.')
2)Insist on realism. This includes understanding the world outside your business. (Jamie Dimon at J.P. Morgan insisted that each division benchmark itself against the best of its competitors.)
3)Identify clear goals, 3 - 4 priorities that are linked to the strategic plan and its near-, medium-, and long-term milestones, and how those priority goals will be accomplished. Always use clear, simple, and unambiguous language. (Dimon established very clear financial objectives for each division, down to the lowest levels feasible.)
4)Follow-through with clear identification about who will be responsible for what, along with specific milestones/timelines for measurement. Milestones need to be close together so there is less room for slippage, information must flow faster and in more detail in most instances, and action must follow analysis.
5)Reward the 'doers,' but avoid excessive emphasis on short-term results. (Dimon rewarded individual initiative, but real gains in salary and bonus came only if the enterprise as a whole did well.)
6)Expand people's capabilities - primarily accomplished through constructive and honest feedback, coaching, and offering new opportunities. Don't just delegate and abandon them.
7)Know yourself as a leader - this is a key underlying factor to understanding and improving how one will act and react.
The following summarizes the details within their book:
Execution is the missing link between aspirations and results. It is also the major job of organizational leaders, and unfortunately its absence is the biggest obstacle to success. Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing how and what, questioning, tenaciously following through, ensuring accountability, and linking rewards to results. It also includes mechanisms for changing assumptions as the environment changes, and upgrading capabilities to meet the challenges of an ambitious strategy. Fundamentally, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it. Only the leader can make execution happen; leading is not to be equated with presiding.
Organizations are full of failed initiatives. Deep within, its managers have tired of time-consuming new projects of uncertain merit that often eventually fade into oblivion, and are inclined to ignore them. Thus, the organization wastes time, money, and energy, and the leader loses credibility. The leader's personal involvement and commitment are required to overcome this passive, sometimes even active resistance. The leader has to not only announce the initiative, but also clearly define its importance to the organization, and follow through to make certain it's taken seriously.
Realism is the heart of execution. Sometime leaders are in denial and when asked what they're going to do about weaknesses or problems, their answers are neither clear nor cohesive. Realism means measuring your own progress and accomplishments via eternal references (benchmarking). Organizations and leaders in denial focus on showing that customers are wrong rather than addressing their complaints.
Failure to deal with underperformers is extremely common in organizations, usually the result of the leader's emotional blockages. Such individuals also have a hard time hiring the best people - out of fear they will under cut his/her power. He will instead surround himself with people he can count on to be loyal and exclude those who will challenge with new thinking. Some leaders don't have the emotional fortitude to give honest feedback and withhold a reward or penalize people. They sometimes even create new jobs for non-performers, thereby totally confusing the organization. Combining the coaching of subpar performers with the opportunity to improve (if possible) can help bring a results-oriented culture. A leader also ought be readily accessible to provide advice, assistance, and clarification, as well as to receive complaints and bad news from inside and outside the organization.
Most efforts at cultural change fail because they are not linked to improving organizational outcomes. Cultural change is NOT accomplished by thinking our way (eg. develop new values and vision statements), but by acting our way into it and achieving desired results. Bossidy writes a letter to each of Honeywell's business and staff leaders that lists their agreed-upon goals. The letter begins with the financial goals, and each is weighted according to importance. Performance is measured compared to both those goals and the achievements of competitors.
An execution culture requires robust dialogue that surfaces reality through openness, candor, and informality. Typically people want to shade and soften what they say to avoid confrontation. Harmony can be the enemy of truth and squelch critical thinking. Formal conservations and presentations leave little room for debate. If the leader practices robust dialogue at all times - formal and informal meetings, even emails, others will take the cue. You change the culture of a company by changing the behavior of its leaders. Robust dialogue also ends with closure - people agree about what each person has to do and when, in an open forum that creates accountability.
Leaders in an execution culture are decisive and timely.
Choosing the right people is what creates, over time, sustainable competitive advantage. Bossidy spent 30 - 40% of his time the first two years at AlliedSignal hiring and developing leaders, 20% after that. One of the activities involved in that process was visiting organizational sites, meeting the managers, and talking to their people. Too often those initial leaders in place when Bossidy first appeared didn't understand the competition or the need for developing their people. Some had good ideas and presented well, but could not execute - so he gave them generous severance packages and tried to help them land on their feet elsewhere. Bossidy had to go outside for nearly all his early hires; eventually he was able to fill most jobs from within. He evaluated not only his direct reports but also their direct reports - sometimes even lower.
Leaders too often rely on staff appraisals that use the wrong criteria, or take fuzzy and meaningless recommendations - "He's a great leader." Allowing non-performers to remain in an organization can do considerable damage, and even destroy it if they are high enough in the hierarchy. Personal loyalty to, and comfort with long-time associates is often an underlying source of failure to address non-performance. Annual appraisals are not enough - provide constructive praise or criticism eg. immediately after a presentation.
Too often boards and senior leaders are seduced by the educational and intellectual qualities of a candidate. Being conceptual, visionary, articulate, and having external linkages (eg. Wall Street, government, universities) are overemphasized. Bossidy has found very little correlation between those who talk a good game and those who get things done. He mainly searches for those with an enormous energy and a drive for winning, the ones that follow through as second nature. He also personally calls prior employers. His experience has been that problems are particularly likely when hiring line personnel from the best business schools, consulting firms, and internal incumbents in staff positions who've never had experience mobilizing or developing business instinct.
Bossidy sees working an 80-hour week as indicative of major weakness - a sign those leaders can't delegate, and a predictor that they're prone to burn out both themselves and others.
A strategic plan begins with data describing the organization's environment - eg. growth or not. It then quantifies current market share, the ultimate scorecard, and intended change. The plan also includes a short synopsis of the strengths and weaknesses of each major competitor, explores what kinds are competitors are currently most successful (eg. low-cost, using innovative technologies), and then builds on an understanding the specific individuals who make purchasing decisions of the firm's products and their rationale in making such decisions. Likely competitor initiatives and reactions are also delineated and incorporated into the plan. Sound assumptions are key to setting realistic goals - achieving such requires open and data-based debate.
Bossidy also regularly reviewed the goals his direct reports were setting for their subordinates, and if vague, he'd ask them to make them more specific. (Eg. 'improve interpersonal skills' might be further honed to 'be more willing to collaborate.')
Quarterly reviews help keep plans up-to-date, and also provide leaders with knowledge of which people are on top of their areas - internally and externally. Properly conducted, these reviews ensure that plans aren't based on hopes and dreams, but current reality.
Stretch goals help achieve maximum effort and force new ways of thinking. But they can't be arbitrary or mindlessly used as a whip.
'Execution' was first published in 2002. In the 2009 update the authors add that the world is now 'experiencing a tectonic shift' in which radical change can happen seemingly overnight. Increasing productivity, along with new entrants, has also brought excess capacity in a wide range of sectors, and even fiercer competition. Stronger competition will also likely bring reduced profits for American corporations, as it has already brought lower inflation-adjusted median family incomes, and reduced tax revenues. This is especially likely now that other governments are taking increased roles in their economies and business environments, and directing them for their own benefit. The result is increased importance of effective execution for all entities, be they for-profit, non-profit, or governmental entity.