Execution - getting work done!

Execution is the third of the four foundation stones of leadership, along with expectations, effectiveness and engagement.

But what do we mean when we talk about execution?

Execution is all about turning plans into reality in the most efficient manner possible. That means using the minimum of resources, usually time and money. But it also means delivering the required result with the agreed level of quality.


Note that execution (or efficiency) is not about getting after the right things - that is all to do with effectiveness. Execution is concerned with the implementation - regardless of whether or not a good decision has been made on what to do and how to go about it. For this reason an individual or a business may have adopted a poor strategy, even if that strategy was executed very well! 


Equally, you may have a brilliant strategy, but if it's badly executed it's unlikely to deliver the hoped for result. And sadly that happens all too often - hence the need to become good at execution. No surprise then that execution is often referred to as one of the key skills of knowledge workers, managers and leaders everywhere.


Fortunately there is a simple enough process which, if followed should dramatically increase your ability to execute well.


As with most of the advice on this site it's not complicated -  it just requires you to apply the basic skills consistently and with discipline. To make life a bit easier we have described two processes. The first is for when you are attacking a task on your own. The second is a bit more complicated and is for when a team is involved in the task. The processes are set out below, but you can also download them as documents that you can use when faced with any task, whether individual or team orientated. I suggest that you print out or save the processes and keep a copy with you. That way you can refer to it as and when you are planning the accomplishment of any task.


The great thing is that the process works with both complex and simple tasks. It could be anything from implementing a new performance review process to making dinner for two! Either way, using the process will dramatically increase your chances of success and put you amongst the very best 'executors'.

Task execution process - individual task:

1. Set out the deliverables

- Know exactly what outcomes you want and when you want them by.

2. Know why you are doing it

- Know where this task or action fits into the overall mission or strategy.

3. Get buy in from others

- Having others on side helps.

4. Make a start

- Set out your broad plan. Invite comment and feedback if appropriate. Think carefully about what you hear (or don't hear).

5. Resources required

- Decide what you need and how you will get it.

6. Set out the plan

- Draw up a detailed plan that describes all the steps, with delivery dates or times attached.

7. Action

- Do it!

8. Review

- Check how you are doing frequently. Creating a daily reminder in your calendar could help.

9. Adapt and adjust

- Make changes as required, but only in the face of new facts.

Task execution process - team task:

1. Set out the deliverables

- Know exactly what outcomes you want and when you want them by.

2. Know why you are doing it

- Knowing where this task or action fits into the overall mission or strategy helps to build commitment.

3. Get senior management endorsement

- Having your boss and senior people onside will increase organisational commitment and help to prevent others from getting in the way.

4. Who's involved?

- Invite people who will be able to contribute, who can free up the time and who want to be involved.

5. Make a start

- Set out your broad plan. Invite comment and feedback. Think carefully about what you hear (or don't hear).

6. Resources required

- Decide what you need and who will secure the resources.

7. Administering the task

- It could be you. For more complex tasks think about a really good administrator. For bigger projects think about a proven project manager.

8. Allocate tasks

- Decide who will do what and when.

9. Step by step plan

- Draw up a detailed, draft plan that sets out all the steps, with names and delivery dates attached. Listen to feedback and comments carefully, and adjust the plan as appropriate.

10. Commitment

- Get final commitment from all

11. Action

- Do it!

12. Review

- Check how you are doing regularly and frequently. Keep the review meetings short and punchy. Use a traffic light system to indicate progress against each item. Document agreed actions.

9. Adapt and adjust

- Make changes as required, but only in the face of new facts.

Dos and dont's for task management

1. Take responsibility

- It's your task or project, so resolve to see it through with discipline and determination. Let it slip or fail and your reputation will take a big dent.

2. Be stretching

- Be ambitious but realistic. You will sap morale if the goals are unachievable.

3. Expect the unexpected

- Bad stuff will happen! Don't waste time huffing and puffing- face reality and deal with it.

4. Work with a sense of urgency

- Keep injecting pace. Don't allow the task to degenerate into a country stroll. Resolve to do it, start and get it done quickly.

5. Be disciplined and thorough

- 'Ready, aim, fire', not 'ready, fire, aim'.

6. Avoid 'mission creep'.

- Stick with the original brief.

7. Don't be afraid to adjust the plan in the face of new facts.

- No plan survives contact with the enemy. But changes must be based on new facts.

8. Feedback

- Keep talking to the team about how it's going.

9. Positive recognition

- People respond well to recognition. Give plenty!

10. Resolve conflicts quickly

- Sort out clashes and issues before they become a problem.

11. Remove those who cannot cope

- Underperformers will sap morale. Your currency will diminish rapidly if you don't deal with them.

12. Reward the team quickly on completion

- Don't wait! Praise, recognise and reward quickly. That way the team will be keen to work with you again.


Task execution process- individual task
Task execution process- team task

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_rawpixel'>rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

  • LinkedIn Social Icon

© 2017 Great Manager Training Ltd

Great Manager Training Ltd.    Company number: 08285353.    Registered in England & Wales

Registered office: Great Manager Training Ltd., 9 Chapel Street, Mumbles, Swansea SA3 4NH