Welcome to Evaluating the Execution Eco-System

  • Asks Questions, Evaluates Eco-System
    Focuses on Execution Design Resources
    Provides Cube Framework Evaluation Tools
    Administers a "Evaluation Blog"
    Coaching & Training 
  • Execution & Initiatives Need Co-Designing
    Good Decisions Require Good Information
    Different Initiatives, Different Capabilities
    Feedback Loop from/to Job Performers
    Company Knowledge: Find What's Hidden
  • Convert Strategic Decisions to Best Actions
    Simplify Execution/Eco-System Design
    Align Eco-System & Make It Transparent
    Uncover Biases About Existing Resources
    Mitigate Fear & Barriers to Needed Change

Focus on Execution

  • The Problem...

    Problem
    Conventional wisdom says strategies and initiatives fail to meet defined goals and objectives because of poor execution. Actually, "initiative failure" is only a symptom of the real problem and poor execution is an excuse that masks the real problem.
     
    Strategies and initiatives succeed because of two main, related reasons: First, initiatives and execution are designed to work together and, two, the initiative-execution eco-system adapts to changing conditions during implementation.
     
    This makes the root cause of strategic and initiative failure the lack of eco-system insight and knowledge, which, when obtained, uncover design criteria like...
     
    • Invalid assumptions about, for example:
       - Resource performance - what's missing, what's available
       - The job that's needs to be done to get the right results
       - Customer (unmet) needs and operational impact
       - The existing economy
       - Time allocation
    • Decision making "value and information" biases, like:
       - Relying on past success and strengths as the basis for "new" ventures
       - We've got the best people
       - Our processes are agile
       - We've got the right resources
       - Initiative was designed for the resources we have
       - Making - forcing - new initiatives work with resources designed for past initiatives
    • Lack of initiative alignment across implementation groups,
    • Hidden, distinguishing resources,
    • Mis-matched culture factors,
    • Resistance to "new" direction and operations causing delayed "action"
    • What's changed - e.g. technology and competition
    • Enterprise wide surprises
     
    ...that can affect initiative performance.
     
    You don't want to miss the obstacles and challenges (Do these sound familiar?) that could...
     
    • Stop or slow the achievement of designed goals and outcomes,
    • Waste time and resources,
    • Inhibit adding unique value to initiatives,
    • Be a factor in missing milestones,
    • Adversely affect company brand (inside and out) and market position, and
    • Cause unnecessary and frequent redesigns of the initiative itself.
     
    It's the not knowing that's the real obstacle. It's JLN C&T's goal to prevent this.
  • ...The Solution

    SolutionAsk lots of common sense, probing "question generating" questions about the execution eco-system resource needs. In other words, evaluate the eco-system.
     
    Use our services to ask and answer the right, open-minded questions that find execution's distinctive, foundational resources and capabilities needed to design a quality eco-system aligned with strategy or initiative purpose. JLN C&T knows that asking the wrong questions - or not asking any at all - can potentially push your initiative implementation away from designed goals.
     
    Assessing the execution eco-system is the gateway to finding execution and initiative barriers and challenges that can block successful implementation. Questions asked across the organization - JLN C&T believes that the best coaching and learning comes from the people around you, those who know best the company, the business (and its context), the market and the(ir) job to be done - can help uncover, for example, knowledge and insight about invalid assumptions (about, e.g., resource performance), information and experience biases that can misshape both initiative and execution design, the lack of initiative alignment across implementing groups (which impacts choosing the right cross functional resources), and, most importantly, poor resource quality.
     
    Questions, lots of thought provoking, "out of the ordinary" questions need to be asked. By asking capability and asset targeted questions, JLN C&T helps determine eco-system status and the state it needs to be in by identifying what exists, what needs changing and what's missing before execution performance is relied on. These questions develop a set of premises to test against what is known, unknown, thought to be known, should be known as well as intuition and data.
     
    Asking insightful questions - covering the interrelated eco-system parts of customers (asking questions that matter to them, not to your transactions), capabilities and growth management - reveals two things: the right set of capabilities and resources for designing execution - like innovation skills and processes - and initiative deficiencies - like inadequately defined value propositions.
     
    Asking good questions and finding answers to fit your business' purpose and context are vital to prioritizing and creating differentiating execution resources that add to your business' unique competitive position. JLN C&T services help make sure the eco-system is in balance with initiatives so your company can maximize getting the value and growth results you expect.

Execution Knowledge...

  • ...Quick Check Quiz

    ...Quick Check Quiz

Focus on Design

  • Strategy's Design Traits

    StrategyPremise320
    Strategies and initiatives are designed using the factors that define them such as goals, business models, target markets, customers, competition and finances just to name a few pieces. This is something that's well known as strategy has a large amount of literature and "ready to serve you" experts for you to use in this design effort.
     
    So, this isn't an article - or site for that matter - that expounds on creating a strategy. But, it is a reminder to you as to the real reasons a strategy or initiative was envisioned and promoted in the first place. These fundamental reasons - aka traits - are useful in co-designing the most important factor to a successful initiative - execution! You have to answer the question "How are we, basically, going to accomplish getting the promised results by implementing this strategy or initiative?"
     
    First of all, strategies and initiatives are decisions about, basically, your company's competitive advantages. Directly related to those decisions is the need to convert them into actions - determining the customers' requirements, risks and constraints as well as your company's skills, processes, tools, resources, deliverables and time factors - that turn the decisions into the edges you need and want. This is called execution.
     
    Initiatives are implemented to create change. Not just any change, but change that gives your company a competitive edge and creates value for your company and customers. They're about addressing market and customer challenges, changing direction, altering a course or pioneering a new path, something your company believes will make it uniquely better and more attractive to customers than your competitors. This change can involve products and services, operations, markets, skills, taking inventions to an innovative level, whatever your business thinks will make a difference. Execution is a profound part of that change - strategic and initiative visions will include new resources, capabilities and actions your company uses to get where it's going, implementing different value that matters to your target markets. In other words, initiatives and its related execution form an iterative evolving eco-system.
     
    Next, strategies and initiatives represent something new (which, at some level in the enterprise, they do - and should!) meaning they are hypotheses, theories. There are no guarantees that they will work in your business context. This is true even if they worked in a competitor's business or a customer's (their contexts are different because of, for example, culture, talent, or customer segment). It's true if you have the greatest workforce in the world, the best processes and use the most up to date tools.
     
    It's the initiative/execution eco-system that turns theory into results. Evaluating it - finding out what's needed to improve initiatives and make them work - helps you determine whether or not the strategy is a valid theory and not just wishful thinking. An evaluation will point out the weaknesses in your strategy or initiative - whether it's just getting started or in mid-process of being implemented - by highlighting, among other things, missing skills, out of date processes and tools, and resources in the wrong spots, all potentially invalidating the initiative. For example, finding you don't have the quality assurance skills, or ability to obtain them, to create a value proposition that requires six sigma error levels could call for a strategy redesign.
     
    Strategic validity's dependence on business context is also why you need to regularly evaluate your execution resources. Timing (of, e.g., new product introduction), talent, markets, and technology (just to mention a few items that define context) help dictate the makeup of your eco-system. The economy takes a turn for the better or worse, talent dries up, new technology appears, etc. can all potentially turn a valid strategy or initiative into something with goals that can not be met. This means that strategies and initiatives have to evolve (an important design trait because the goals and the vision can remain intact) and evaluating initiative/execution in light of contextual change helps "test" strategic theory validity and find the continuous improvements - or alternative "hows" - needed for success going forward.
     
    Corporate strategies and initiatives are the blueprint for all other strategies and initiatives that are developed by, e.g., business units, functional groups and other value chain participants. In other words, strategies and initiatives generate dependent strategies and initiatives throughout the organization (sometimes in reverse - e.g., a corporate strategy requires a new invention strategy that is unrealistic that causes a main strategy re-design). So, co-designing execution needs to anticipate, or include, initiatives that are developed as a result of other initiatives, new or existing and either left, right, above or below the value chain flow.
     
    Lastly, strategies an initiatives are designed to a set of objectives and expected results. Obvious, but need to be kept in mind when designing the initiative/execution eco-system. These objectives and results are partly driven by the fact that customers "buy" your company (it's not your products or services, it's your entire company) when they align with you to make their businesses relevant. By evaluating the eco-system, using customer centric criteria based questions, you'll develop a deep understanding of what your customers need, want and find important which, in turn, uncovers what they "see" and feel about "how" you do things to get results. This visibility makes execution design central to strategy and initiative design.
     
    Decisions, change, unique, different, value that matters, hypothesis/theory, valid, context, evolve, sub-strategy dependency, objectives and results: these are the fundamental traits that drive the co-design of strategy, initiatives and their execution eco-system. Implementing initiatives is meant to put your company ahead - in the lead in some fashion or another - not to create parity with the competition. Execution is fundamental to that goal.
     
    Keep in mind that ideas and visions can be (easily) copied but pairing them with a high quality execution eco-system makes it hard to impossible to duplicate. If building a strategy is brain work, the thinking part, then doesn't execution have that trait as well?
     
    I think so!
  • Designing Eco-Systems

    DesignEcoSystemConventional wisdom says that businesses should design their strategies and initiatives with the capabilities and resources they have. But if they are developing strategies and initiatives to create change, uniqueness and differentiation, doesn't that mean they need to design an aligned execution eco-system that reflects that change? Even if they follow the "wisdom," doesn't it mean they need to, at least, make "adjustments" to the system?
     
    I think so. Strategy and execution are inseparable. Trying to answer the question "Are we prepared to turn our strategies and initiatives into the intended impact they should have on our competitive advantage?" goes beyond initiative design. It requires an initiative-execution "system" design. Implementing initiatives with impact will mean developing new capabilities and resources, modifying existing ones, combining them in new ways or eliminating inappropriate ones. Regardless, something will change.
     
    Designing the execution part of the system requires that companies pay attention to some fundamental dynamics that will shape the design that a harmonic initiative-execution system requires:
     
    Designing the right execution capabilities and resources does not mean initiative implementation will go smoothly or be "perfect." The real question isn't "Can we execute perfectly?", it's "How robust is the system so we can recover from the inevitable imperfections?" Making adjustments to the right set of capabilities and resources is expected when you add new things to or change old ones in the designed system, be they people (yours, your customers'), skills, processes, tools and the initiative itself. A strong, healthy system requires trial and error, the ability to improvise and evolve, and the ability to learn from those trials. Knowing - expecting - execution needs to change at any time means designing your eco-system to embrace it.
     
    Your company is doing a lot of things right. And it's probably successful. But new strategies and initiatives mean taking a new look at capabilities and resources. First, ask "What else can we do right?" along with "What's not working now?". Since "not working" doesn't necessarily mean it's the wrong capability or resource you either need to change it or you do, indeed, have to retire its use. Second, you need to look at old assets in a new light. For example, management communicates regularly to the workforce (an asset). That's good. But maybe the new initiative requires a more customer focused approach. Now management needs to present new information - customer business strategies - or more details about information already provided - customers who quit buying and why. Good will be become better. Third, design needs the question "What can go wrong with implementing this new initiative?". Preparing for the recovery of inevitable snafus - robustness - needs to be designed as well.
     
    Design the eco-system knowing it's made up of combinations of distinct capabilities and resources, forming the "new" activity and function competencies that define your company's brand.  For example, collaboration is a capability consisting of communication and empowerment skills, brainstorming and project management processes, knowledge and organizational resources, as well as tools to make each collaborative context work effectively. It's this combining the basic set of capabilities and resources together that creates the competitive distinction - all competencies working together - that separates your company from others in your markets.
     
    Companies are in the value chain of their customers. Yes, your company needs capabilities and resources to meet the goals and objectives of its strategies and initiatives. But, more importantly, they are needed to meet the goals and objectives of its customer's strategies and initiatives. Design the eco-system with choosing and crafting capabilities and resources by asking "How will they impact my value proposition(s) and my customers?" Remember, customers put their future into each purchase they make and that they really don't buy products and services but, instead, they "buy" your company. Not only do they buy what they see and feel, they also "buy" what isn't readily visible to them - how you get to the results they see and how it affects the results they plan for - i.e., its overall performance. For example, how does your financial management system affect your ability to handle customization projects? How does your R&D process keep old products innovative and keep a steady stream of new innovations at the same time? And how does HR keep talent sources fresh (both with new people and up to date skills)?
     
    What do your customers, foreign and domestic, value? Time, quality, relationships, customization? Design your execution eco-system with the things customers value the most in mind. Answer the questions "What about my company's activities and solutions cause my customer to be an advocate for it?", "What do we do that causes our customers to be dissatisfied?", "How do they define 'ease of doing business'?" and "What do we do, or need to do, to create a loyal customer?" If, for example, your customers value "quality," then make sure your eco-system has the capabilities, up and down the value chain, that emphasizes the quality factors - like reliability, ease of use, or ease of maintenance - your customers find valuable.
     
    Your company has "weaknesses," as an organization or in individuals, for a reason. Individuals have weaknesses because they lack a talent or consciously choose (lack of desire, interest or motivation) not to develop certain capabilities (skills). Companies consciously have weaknesses because their present strategies and business models don't need, or at least they believe it to be true, the missing or weak capabilities or resources to succeed. So, design your eco-system by determining what's needed and not fixing what's weak. If you have a missing capability or resource then get it. If you need to deepen an existing strength, then do it. But don't design to eliminate weaknesses, design by adding strengths that are needed.
     
    Designing a "new" eco-system means you have to know where your company is with its existing one, which is usually done through an evaluation. This evaluation has some rules to getting a true understanding of the system's status. First, don't evaluate trying to confirm what you already believe about what capabilities and resources exist. Don't prejudge the quality of their performance. And don't look at existing capabilities and resources believing they can't be adapted to a new design or combined with new ones. Design is a creative process needing an open mind about what truly exists and what's needed, missing or wrong. You need to look at existing capabilities and resources with a different set of criteria based on needed new or stronger competencies. For example, your company has a good invention competency as do several of your customers. Ask "How can we adapt each process to each other's or combine them to create a more robust process so we can create a more timely, reliably introduced inventions?"
     
    Because the eco-system is dynamic, designing one capability or resource will not define it. The concept of eco-system says it all: everything is related to everything, sometimes in surprising ways, sometimes strongly, sometimes weakly and sometimes in a good or bad way. But you can't change the whole system all at once - that's a recipe for disaster and probably it's not possible, like changing culture. Design the big picture, prioritize implementation of the pieces and parts and implement small, quick (as possible) changes.  Then move on to the next prioritized items. As the system adapts to the changes, your organization will learn what works and what doesn't and make adjustments accordingly. Implementing the design, while critical to initiative success, does require some patience.
     
    Your company's goals and objectives are important. So are those of your employees, suppliers and partners and customers. Design the eco-system's capabilities and resources to fit initiatives and strategies and the goals and objectives of execution implementers. Focus on their success as well. For example, some employees' goal may be going into management. So, if they show promise, design training and mentoring capabilities - skills, processes and tools - that allow them to "practice" the activities that are aligned with that goal. Or, if a supplier's revenue goals require bulk sales that optimizes their manufacturing runs, design your buying and revenue management processes with those goals in mind. But don't compromise your company's goals, objectives, principles and beliefs. Design an eco-system that aligns them with the stakeholders that make strategies and initiatives work.
     
    These aren't the only dynamics that affect design. I'm sure there are others. But these are important reminders that will help you successfully design your execution eco-system.
  • Effectiveness First

    EffectivenessFirstWhich comes first, efficiency or effectiveness? When it comes to strategies and initiatives and their implementation, the people who design them to deliver specific results usually...
     
    • Want to know they will work,
    • Want the implementation to be efficient, and
    • Want it now!
     
    These are three admirable goals for initiatives. But, while everyone wants efficiency and timeliness, the first item in the list requires effectiveness. And it's first in the list for a reason.
     
    You see, strategies and initiatives are designed to create change. They are designed to do something different for the business. Designed "change and differences" that lead to meeting goals like more growth. This means you have to determine whether the execution eco-system in place is effective to produce that change. In other words, you have to make sure you're doing the right things to produce the intended results of the initiative. Once you determine what those "right things" are then you can set your sights on making them efficient, that is making them perform as quickly as possible in the best possible way by eliminating waste and unneeded effort.
     
    Why effectiveness first? I'm sure you've heard something like the following: "We really performed well and fast at getting the results we don't want." 
     
    For example, in this day and age of customer support, phone service is an evolving must. Part of this evolution is the movement away from "get through the call quickly" to one where time spent is less emphasized than solving problems and answering questions to the customer's satisfaction. It was learned that efficiency on the phone produced dissatisfied customers, more phone calls and unwanted publicity because "time" based responses were not effective. Yes, support talked to a lot of customers but they didn't fully answer questions or solve problems. Not exactly the results wanted or expected for an initiative that was suppose to increase customer loyalty and more. Leading with "efficiency," in this case, resulted in unintended and unknown consequences.
     
    So how would looking for effectiveness first have helped prevent this situation?
     
    When you ask questions about empowerment, innovation, culture, communication, customer focus just to mention a few areas, you start finding effective pieces and parts that work together - form a system - to satisfy the initiative's goals, objectives and value propositions. Why? Because you're now asking questions that go beyond "what does a phone call look like." You're asking questions about what decisions need to be made and who makes them (refunds?). Questions about who's responsible for and when to implement innovative techniques (how can refunds work for both the company and the customer). And questions about your and your customers' cultures that could affect results (who are the experts for a "one call per problem only" requirement).
     
    Now, this is where it gets interesting. By evaluating the execution eco-system, the questions asked and answered will potentially uncover initiative effectiveness, or parts of it, as well. For example, if a goal is to solve a problem in one call, by asking questions about empowerment and innovation may lead to redefining what "one call" really means. Is a call back allowed (find an expert)? How about sending out local support to see the issue first hand (extra time and people)? Point is, by asking lots of different questions about execution, you could uncover initiative deficiencies (in this case, potentially in the business model). Questioning the quality of the execution eco-system is also questioning the quality of the initiative. Remember, great execution of a poorly designed initiative and poor execution of a well designed initiative both get unwanted, unexpected results.
     
    JLN C&T knows that taking the time to evaluate execution is the best way to focus on the effectiveness of the whole strategy-execution system.
     
    By the way, in the phone support example, I'll bet the effective way is becoming efficient by, for example, asking better questions, determining customer capabilities more quickly, and using new technology not to mention the efficiency of keeping customers.
  • "New" Means "Theory"

    SomethingNewIt's common sense that if you try something new to replace something that isn't working, it's smart - or can be. By something "new," I mean something designed for the execution eco-system, such as a new skill, process, tool, model, or whatever you deem needed to improve the chances your strategy or initiative will work as expected.

    Why did I bring this up? Because the results of designing something "new" actually is nothing more than a theory that it will work. And theories don't offer guarantees. 

    As a quality professional, I would promote new ideas to challenges that were met with "Oh, that's just a theory. It's not something that can work here." My response was "But you keep trying the same thing over and over. How's that working for you?" Most of the time, folks really just wanted to keep doing the same thing because they thought experience would improve it. They thought it was a proven method (or skill-set etc.) and working on project after project - challenge after challenge - would make them better performers.

    Now, I think we should expect better and do better with experience. But how many times do we do "something," expect better outcomes and, yet, get disappointing results? Most of the time, it's not experience but "something" used from the execution eco-system is the wrong "something" (or several wrong "somethings"). When do we give up this unproductive cycle and find the wrong "somethings" we're using so we can identify and design something "new?"
     
    I had a Vice President come up to after a project completed and opine that it "ended" (ended in quotes because it actually had to continue) with the same results: missed schedules, more time, more misunderstandings about specifications and customer needs and more. "Why?" he asked, "Why did we get these same results as the last project and the one before that?" I answered with a question "What changed?" He had to answer "Nothing really."
     
    We needed something "new."

    I say trying something "new" is smart because we are not going choose that something willy nilly. We're going to make sure whatever's chosen will be "practical" by using our common sense, judgment, experience, pilot programs and the entire organization's wisdom to define that "new" something. Getting that organizational wisdom? It means we have to ask questions of company stakeholders - colleagues and, possibly, customers, suppliers and partners, not to mention questioning ourselves.

    Following the principle outlined above means trying something "new" will be "valid," but not necessarily proven. What does "valid" mean? As Roger Martin says in his book The Design of Business, it's first, and I paraphrase, a premise that best explains producing outcomes that meet a desired, predicted result(s), and, second, through use, whatever the something "new," the result(s) is consistently experienced over time. Remember, something "new" isn't proven until it is used or practiced and meets intended objectives. To illustrate (and think about), an idea or invention is not an innovation until it's implementation is executed and meets the goal of widespread targeted market acceptance as the solution, product or service of choice.

    Your strategies and initiatives represent new and, hopefully, unique things. It only follows that your execution eco-system will have to contribute to helping make initiatives unique by getting to the results like no other company. After all, initiatives themselves are easily duplicated or co-opted; it's done all the time. What separates them from "those copied" is the integration of an effective execution eco-system that matches business context - made effective by adding a new resource (capability or activity), changing a resource or configuring resources in new ways.

    What follows are some examples of the wisdom, judgment  and common sense that we use when choosing, designing and implementing the something "new":

    • No matter how hard you try, you won't be able to copy your competitors' execution eco-systems. Combinations of capabilities and activities used successfully by competitors works in their businesses because of their context - different people, skills, processes, tools, managers, markets and customers, and "the moment in time." Your business' context is never quite the same as your competitors'. Your "something new" must be designed with your context in mind.
     
    • When designing something "new" don't overlook the fact that capabilities have different flavors depending on factors like target audience, job to be done, and geographic location. For example, collaboration processes aren't the same for every collaborative situation (apply this logic to innovation, communication, change, product support, etc. as well). Collaborating with company colleagues is different than collaborating with customers or external experts and collaborating on-site can be different from collaborating off-site.
     
    • Most businesses think the "innovation" that counts is product or service oriented. But something "new" innovations don't begin and end with products and related services. Processes, management models, skills, and business models - execution resources - are subject to innovation as well. Design should be applied to anything that is "new" after related initiative-execution elements are identified and added to the design mix.

    • Customers have issues, problems and challenges, other than those addressed by your products and services, that affect your company's ability to sell. Find them and see if they can be something "new" opportunities that can be turned into resources for your execution eco-system.
     
    • Nothing in your business is ever the same. The context of a point in time is not the same as the context at another point in time. Lots of interrelated variables - skills, markets, natural resource availability, and politics for example - define that context. Something "new" has to be agile enough to handle "context flow."

    Last, I’m making this challenge to you, the reader: Develop your something "new" execution resource with your company's stories and anecdotes in mind. If you don’t have any, which I doubt, seek them out from your colleagues, partners, suppliers, and customers. They’re there. The most important story or anecdote is yours and your company’s, not some other company's out of context “we made it work so can you” depiction.
     
    Yes, your adventures into developing something "new" is a theory but proper definition and design will turn those "theories" into a cohesive, well working execution eco-system.

JUNewsUltra Pro

...The Solution

...The Solution

27.02.2013 | Focus On Execution | Jonathan Narducci
Ask lots of common sense, probing "question generating" questions about the execution eco-system resource needs. In other words, evaluate the...
The Problem...

The Problem...

27.02.2013 | Focus On Execution | Jonathan Narducci
Conventional wisdom says strategies and initiatives fail to meet defined goals and objectives because of poor execution. Actually, "initiative failure"...

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    Importance of "What's Done"

    Important

    Execution & Initiatives Need Co-Designing

    Good Decisions Require Good Information

    Different Initiatives, Different Capabilities

    Feedback Loop from/to Job Performers

    Company Knowledge: Find What's Hidden

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