"Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future."                        -- Peter Drucker


If the execution of a company’s plans is an avowed priority, critical to the success of both the CEO and the business, why aren't CEOs spending enough time on it to make it successful? Why is it that every time the Conference Board surveys CEOs to identify their Top Ten Challenges, “consistent execution of strategy” or “excellence in execution” is invariably cited as being in the top two or three “greatest concerns” … yet, when CEOs are asked about their greatest disappointments or failures, they routinely list their company’s inability to execute?

Huh? How is it that a subject among the top three goals of most CEOs is the very one where the CEO has the least amount of success? Is this simply a conundrum tucked inside a mystery hidden inside an enigma ... or can we sort out some of this ambiguity?

As we continue our series about the roadblocks to success, one thing we know for sure. Sustainable change, even in small doses, is very difficult to achieve. Why is there such a universal resistance to change and what can we do to overcome it? Why is it that we can develop a brilliant strategy to catapult us to success but simply can’t get our organization to make the changes necessary to achieve it? What’s missing in our success formula that makes sustainable change such an elusive goal?

We’re flat worn out. We’ve done all the work to formulate a powerful strategy but we simply ran out of steam when we were finished. We devoted all of our available resources and employee time to formulating the strategy, but people are tired of it all so we’ve simply stopped investing in the process.

We love la-la land. We proudly announce our strategy, complete with PowerPoint and FAQs on our employee web site, and figure that since everyone now knows what needs to get done, they’ll go off and do it.  Our people are smart, they’ll figure it out, and we don’t have to do it for them. La-la land is just so warm and fuzzy ….

Brain freeze. We’ve got so many initiatives going on, in so many places, that we’re running from pillar to post to get them done. We’ve created tremendous heat but no light. We’re making good time … we just don’t know exactly where we’re going and we’re so caught up in the action that we can’t sustain our focus on any one thing.

Planning sucks. Wandering is a lot more fun. Planning is hard, it takes work, and then when it’s all done, there’s even more work required to make sure people do what they were assigned. I know we spent a lot of time to craft our strategy … but do we really need to establish specific projects and milestones to accomplish our goals … and then have to go to the trouble of assigning them to specific people to get ‘em done?

 This roadblock may be the most nefarious, particularly for the companies that do spend the time to develop a well-considered strategy. They embrace the importance of a communicating a strategy that everyone understands, screening out the activities that aren’t as important and distilling their goals and aspirations into a cohesive strategy … but they haven't invested the time needed to set the milestones, identify the next action steps and assign the projects and tasks to specific individuals.

Creating meaningful change is hard work at best and requires a sustained level of effort across the entire organization. Your organization may be suffering from a few of the maladies I’ve mentioned, but if you really want to see your ideas realized, you’ll need to overcome these roadblocks.

You've probably heard the old phrase, "if it doesn't get measured, it doesn't get done." People need a leader, and if nobody's watching, things tend not to get done. You must be absolutely committed to relentless implementation, and constantly remind everyone that execution is the only path to meaningful change and resounding success.

So, plan the work … and work the plan. You may be surprised at the lasting results you can achieve. ...

Lary Kirchenbauer is the President of Exkalibur Advisors, providing practical business strategies for middle market businesses. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses at the intersection of leadership, finance and business strategy. You can subscribe to his newsletter at the Exkalibur web site at www.Exkalibur.com. You’ll also find a library of valuable resources, including a video and podcast library as well as articles and insights related to middle market businesses.