Doubts – they are success killers.

Doubt is an execution killer. When you begin you cannot hesitate, you must bring a full and concentrated effort to executing the strategy. Anything less will begin to erode the probability of success. There can be no doubt!

General George Patton the famous WWII US Army General had an excellent quote on strategy and execution that went something like this: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” 

Executing violently seems to sit nicely in war and sport, perhaps not so well in business, but the symbolism is useful. Executing strategy aggressively and with confidence clearly increases the chances of success. Removing doubt then becomes one of the most difficult challenges a manager or team can face as they try to execute strategy effectively. You really don’t want anyone to be hesitating.

There is a distinction to be made here. In the development of strategy and the debate around what should be done it is invaluable to have doubters. You need folks to question and challenge and force you to clarify. This is how good strategy is developed. But once the debate is had and the decision has been made, from the moment we move to execution there can be no hesitation. IN THE DOING…THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT!

So what are some of the causes of doubt when it comes time to execute?

1. Lack of Clarity. People not being absolutely crystal clear on what success looks like, what they need to focus on to get there and how they are to proceed.

2. Lack of Confidence. If the executors lack confidence in the strategy, it is doomed from the beginning.

3. Lack of Ability. If the strategy is beyond the ability of those executing then strategic failure is certain.

4. Lack of Resources. Those charged with executing the strategy simply don’t have the resources to do the job.

5. Lack of Leadership Support. When you begin, you must know that you will have the full support of the leadership, regardless of how the strategy goes.

What does this mean for leaders?

1. Provide absolute clarity on:

a. WHAT does success look like?
b. HOW will it be measured?
c. WHAT action will we take NOW?

2. Win the hearts and minds of the Executors. They must understand the purpose and reason for the strategy and feel some degree of ownership. You have to get buy in!

3. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Understand what your team is capable of and ensure they are playing to their strengths. It is OK to challenge them and stretch the boundaries but if you take them too far outside their comfort zone it will almost certainly lead to personal doubt.

4. Make sure you have the resources to do the job. Not having enough resources is always a complaint from front-line staff and in most cases legitimate. The leader’s challenge is to ensure what resources you do have are focused on high return targets and again don’t set the bar too high that lack of resources kills the strategy.

5. Give your full support. Most important of all, BE THERE! Know what is happening at the front-line. Do not, as a leader, abdicate responsibility for execution it is your primary responsibility. Be there for your people, get engaged and throw your full support behind the effort. Finally make sure you personally have confidence in the strategy.

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“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.
You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
– Theodore M. Hesburgh
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Martin West