EXECUTE vs. PLAN (& Don't Ask Siri Her Opinion!)
It's not the thinkers that change the world, but the doers. You are only aware of the historically great thinkers because they were the ones that also wrote the books, built the organizations, and failed at their first 1,000 experiments. Our companies, schools and playgrounds are filled with brilliant, high-IQ individuals, yet 99.9% never reach their potential because no one ever teaches them how to execute.
As a CEO, President of Big Brothers Big Sisters, or captain of the sports team, I have always been baffled by the great divergence of output from similarly situated human beings on our teams. It is not intelligence. Is it nature or nurture? Whatever the answer, we must commit to being the Just Do It Leader and only recruit this same type of teammate for our organizations [see Post, "The Right Type of Diversity: Harvard to Hairdressers"].
Professor Wyatt Wells wrote a humorous article about the strategic planning exercise at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM). He recounted the "organizational ritual...took months...at considerable expense." His observations confirm what all A-Players already know. The B's and C's spend their weeks creating plans and policy and telling everyone else what to do - along with why they, themselves, are constrained from achieving their own objectives. Let's review a couple AUM initiatives:
AUM commits to "enhance morale among employees." Tear that up, enroll your company team in the local Friday night softball league, take them to Harrigan's Pub after, and you will see enhanced morale.
AUM commits to "enhance a culture of scholars." Erase that and become the leader with the most trade licenses and industry accreditations and be "the smartest one in the room." Your entire organization will follow and duplicate your achievements without you ever uttering a word of guidance.
AUM also commits to adopting "national advising best practices standards and diversity learning outcomes." I am certainly not bright enough to understand what that means! With today's fast pace, 5-year plans are a joke, 3-year plans are a waste of time, and 1-year strategies may be only partially accurate [see Post, "Extraordinary Organizations"]. Professor Wells concluded from his experience that "strategic planning, the way it's practiced by most institutions in the U.S., is a fraud...offers incompetent managers a shield...and at its best, it's little more than a public-relations exercise." Amen.
So, how do we not follow the masses, and instead find High-Executioners that build special organizations?
1. High-Executioners many times have backgrounds focused on achievement in sports, top academics and development goals, such as Eagle Scout. The youth who committed to practicing fundamentals and trained in the pool before and after school, now as adults do whatever it takes to reach their goals - they don't know any other way. Remember those kids with wet hair in high school? Go look them up now.
2. Massive organization and time management are non-negotiable requirements for High-Executioners, and for anyone they choose to partner with. They refuse to suffer disorganized underachievers. They make tomorrow's task list before closing the books on today. They implement every new technology for efficiency. If the task list turns red when past due for them, their assistant, or their boss, it drives them crazy!
3. High-Executioners stand out like a super nova among the masses at work, at the gym, or at the Susan G. Komen Pink Meeting. Unfortunately, most people that do not produce at the office, also don't get involved in their community, and literally just sleepwalk through the year. All circles of life are interwoven - work, health, relationships, spiritual. High-Executioners burn it down in all circles. The workaholic excuse is a myth propagated by B's and C's to rationalize their lack of desire to produce at the office while also coaching the little league team.
Work every day to raise your level of execution and do everything you can to recruit these rare individuals to your mission. Leave the 5-year strategic plans to others. They love that stuff!
"Good managers can usually list their goals on a note card and explain how they intend to achieve them on a few sheets of paper." - Prof. Wyatt Wells, Auburn University at Montgomery