Execution as a driver for effectiveness

EQ Durban, EQ South Africa
Written by: Avril Kidd
Execution is the ability to achieve strategic results by implementing effective tactics. Do your team members perceive they have the systems and structures to prioritize, efficiently accomplish tasks, and achieve results? Or is their energy wasted, lots of waving arms without real movement forward?

To me, ideas are nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.


The old model of execution defined a standard operating procedure and rigorously followed it. It was then fine tuned and repeated with increasing consistency. In the new model a clear strategic direction is set which is improved and adapted as we go along. In most businesses today, execution is radically different from a generation ago.

 Once it was meaningful to commit to a five-year development cycle, now we need to adapt to a rapidly changing reality. As such, people need clear goals and real empowerment to meet those. Most companies are now finding the process of year goals and budgets meaningless. Instead goals and plans need to be reviewed and updated as we go along. To increase execution, we need to look at developing these three components or pulse points.




1. Focus

As complexity increases, the risk is increased chaos. There are more and more variables to consider. Instead of trying to do too much and track too many objectives, put your focus on a magic number of three and break these down.

There’s something easy and effective about three priorities. Each of the current goals should be broken into parts and each part needs to be achievable within a month. Successful leaders support their people to turn meaningful goals into concrete actions.

Every three months review the goals and actions to update them to stay realistic. When people lack focus, that leads to uncertainty which in turn leads to lack of action due to feelings of anxiety and frustration.

Do your team know their 3 main goals?


2. Accountability

In the VUCA business context, we also need something different. We want speed and adaptability but we also want people to feel ownership of their work. So let’s give them that ownership. But with ownership of the choices comes ownership of the results too.

Create a clear scope of work, define success, and delegate. Effective delegation requires specific, clear criteria on which success is measured; negotiate mutual agreement and a realistic timeline. Then make space for people to work.

We must assess performance against the agreed upon criteria. But don’t see accountability as a way to blame. The focus should rather be on improvement and excellence. That doesn’t mean tolerating ongoing under-performance. It does mean setting a tone that encourages risk taking and open, honest appraisal of success and failure.

The take away here is therefore to let people choose and make the results clear. Then, right or wrong, treat every choice as an opportunity for learning.

Do you only celebrate successes? If errors are punished, people will be too scared to try new ideas and will be very conservative in their approach. Errors and failures can be great learning opportunities if handled correctly.


3. Feedback

Closely tied to accountability is the need for visibility. Ideally, all performers would be able to see their current results. Constant, clear data provides a shaping force to calibrate and refine performance. An accurate benchmark lets us make meaningful comparisons to understand where we stand and what’s needed ahead.

Don’t create data tracking and benchmark systems measuring what’s easy to see. Instead measure what’s important. We often say, “what you measure is what you get”. Be sure you’re measuring what matters. The take-away here is to provide performance data that’s visible, timely and meaningful.

It is therefore evident that Execution is a very significant driver for effectiveness to complete our model. To achieve this we need to allow for focus, accountability and feedback to help drive us towards success.


I truly hope that you have found the Vital Signs Model to be interesting. Remember the effectiveness of an individual, team or organization can be evaluated using the Vital Signs Assessment tool and the targeted training can be done in order to receive the desired outcomes.