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The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 51 :: Governance :: Execution Framework

Over the course of the One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, we’ve talked about dozens of responsibilities that fall to you as a leader in your organization, but there’s a common thread that weaves its way through all of them. You’ve got to “get stuff done”. Every company I work with has its own unique challenges with “getting stuff done”. In every case, there’s never a shortage of inspiration, good ideas, and plans, but the organization fails, in varying degrees, in execution.

Your company will never carry out its mission or move closer to its vision without a robust execution framework. There are already excellent execution frameworks out there. I like OKR (Objectives and Key Results), 4DX (The Four Disciplines of Execution), and EOS (Entrepreneur Operating System). I also have my own that’s part of my Business Framework. In this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, I don’t want to advocate for one of these and ask you to select it by the end of the exercise. Instead, I want to communicate the essential elements of an execution framework, explain why they’re necessary, and ask you to assess your organization. Identify – 1) where your organization is most deficient in execution disciplines, 2) how that deficiency impacts your ability to get stuff done, and 3) what changes need to be made in the organization to correct the deficiency. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to select the execution framework that’s best suited for your company.

Here are the crucial elements in an Execution Framework

  • It makes you connect the dots between the task to be executed and “bigger ideas” in the company – the mission, vision, or an important strategic objective. If the task doesn’t roll up to one of those, why do it?
  • It enforces “cascading”. A big strategic objective involves everyone in the company. Those people work in multiple departments and have very disparate responsibilities. A robust execution framework will allow you to create tasks and sub-tasks, all rolling up to the big strategic objective.
  • It creates staff alignment. Everyone in the organization will be able to see how their task traces back to the big strategic objective and how their task complements and enables others in the organization to execute their tasks. Competition and conflict may not be eliminated but they become subservient to the overarching objective.
  • It pivots on a Responsible Person. Each task (and cascading subtask) is ultimately “owned” by someone. He/she is the sole possessor of the “The buck stops here” sign for that task. As the Responsible Person, they bear the weight of coordinating the people, resources, and time to bring their particular task to a successful completion.
  • It has mechanisms that create accountability. As former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner reminded us, “People don’t do what you expect, but what you inspect.” Depending on the framework, you’ll see daily check-in meetings, weekly written reports, intranet dashboards, and several other tools that give responsible parties the opportunity to check progress, learn about emerging roadblocks, and congratulate success.
  • It promotes transparency and communication. The larger the organization, the more important this becomes. When each team member in the organization can see what the other team members are working on, the opportunity to collaborate (and to reduce redundant work) increases dramatically. Team members can also share what they’ve discovered during the course of the initiative. This can flatten the learning curve for the organization at large.
  • It provides focus. The biggest detriment to “getting stuff done” is the press of regular, daily tasks. The unhappy customer, underperforming vendor, or disgruntled employee provide plenty of distractions. A good execution framework, with its ever-present accountability, rescues team members from “urgent” tasks and returns them to “important” tasks.
  • It tracks resources. Not only does the framework give visibility into the work of other team members, it makes the resources produced by those team members available to everyone else. If a new dataset is created from customer purchase transactions, a new software tool is obtained, or a piece of equipment is purchased, that can be reported on the framework so it can be leveraged across the organization.
  • It forces prioritization. No matter how dedicated, talented, and brilliant we might think we are, we can’t do more than one or two big strategic initiatives at a time. The discipline required to flesh out an initiative with this degree of detail and push it down through the organization makes you choose just the one or two things that will have the biggest impact on the organization.
  • It utilizes timelines and milestones. We all know how to eat an elephant – one bite at a time. A good execution framework will help you track tasks as you break them into doable, measurable, and time-appropriate chunks.
  • It makes you pinpoint the right magnitude. Jim Collins introduced us to “BHAGs” – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. Goals that, if you reached them, would make you feel proud and accomplished. Equally, looking at them before the work starts, they are scary – you’re not sure you can pull them off. The one or two initiatives in play in your execution framework and the subsequent breakdown of those initiatives into tasks and subtasks ought to cause you some discomfort. If they generate a couple of sleepless nights and a bit of indigestion, you’ve probably settled in on the right magnitude. If they’re a slam dunk, neither you nor your organization are going to grow. If they’re too hard, you and your team will get discouraged and give up. Make sure the metrics you use to gauge your success make you stretch to the limit without breaking. The discipline of using a robust framework that requires you to break initiatives into subtasks, assign those tasks to people, and marshal the resources to make the initiatives happen will help you right-size each ability-stretching piece.
  • It’s user-friendly. To maximize its effectiveness, the execution framework must be easy to understand, easy to operate, and easy to access. There should be simple dashboards that show the status of overarching initiatives and drill downs that show progress on subtasks and team member’s personal performances. If it’s a hassle to enter information or consume information, it will quickly fall into disuse.

 

I’m guessing it’s obvious at this point that the homework for this week’s exercise will push you past thirty minutes, but I’m not feeling that sorry. The benefit from finding and implementing the right execution framework for your business will far exceed the investment of extra time. If you’re ready to dig deeper, these links will get you more info on the execution frameworks I mentioned earlier.

OKR – https://www.amazon.com/Measure-What-Matters-Google-Foundation/dp/0525536221/

4DX – https://www.amazon.com/Disciplines-Execution-Achieving-Wildly-Important/dp/1451627068/

EOS – https://www.amazon.com/Traction-Get-Grip-Your-Business/dp/1936661837/

Business Framework (see the seventh discipline) – https://clearvision.consulting/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BusinessFrameworkOutline.pdf

 

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 31 :: Project Management :: Framework

Every organization, from the solo practitioner to the multi-billion-dollar, publicly traded company has projects. It might be installing new enterprise software, building a branch office, or introducing a new manufacturing process. And, if you have projects, you need a solid project framework.

In this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, I’m going to give you factors for successful project management then introduce a simple project management framework. If you don’t have an existing project management tool, I encourage you to use your thirty-minute exercise to customize this framework for your organization, then try it out on your next project.

Successful project management is about the stewardship of four resources – time, materials, money and people. Materials can take the form of a new software package or a pile of lumber, but most always represents an input that must be transformed during the project. People can take the form of employees, contractors or vendors who must be aligned, informed, and coordinated during the project. But only one of the resources is the most important – time – because you can’t make any more of it. There’s always a chance to earn more money, procure more materials and engage more people, but you can’t manufacture any more time. Consequently, time is the primary driver in project management. The crux of good project management is coordinating transformation activities (typically people + materials + time), so they happen on schedule, with sufficient quality, on budget, and in the right order. A critical piece of project management is understanding predecessor and successor activities. Predecessor activities are those that must either be started or, in some cases, completed before the next activity begins. Successor activities are those that are dependent on a predecessor activity. There are a host of software tools that can help you plot all transformation activities related to a project in a visual format and be a repository for all project related materials (documents, drawings, checklists, contacts, communication). The level of complexity and cost varies from tool to tool. No matter which one you choose, it can help you keep all the balls in the air. Here’s a list curated by The Digital Project manager. https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/best-project-management-software/

Let’s jump in to this week’s exercise.

Here’s a simple project worksheet I’ve developed. Before you begin a project, I recommend you engage in, at least, this level of justification for the project

Project Title ___________________________________________________

Project Sponsor ________________________________________________

Project Team __________________________________________________

Project Cost:   One Time _______________  Ongoing _______________

Reason:

Maintenance of Current Operations _____    Cost Saving _____

Increased Revenue _____                                    Compliance _____

Improved Customer Experience _____            Improved Employee Experience _____

If Increased Revenue or Cost Saving, what is the amount? _______________

How does this project support the mission of the organization?

_____________________________________________________________

Briefly describe the project

_____________________________________________________________

What activities are required before the project begins (research, permits, etc)

_____________________________________________________________

Project Plan

  • Resources
    • People (employees, vendors, contractors) _____________________________________________________
    • Money (costs and payment schedule) _____________________________________________________
    • Materials (materials to be transformed and materials needed for transformation activities) _____________________________________________________
  • Timeline
    • Start date _______________
    • Target completion date _______________
    • Milestone events and dates _____________________________________________________
  • Predecessor Tasks and Successor Tasks (a successor task can also be a predecessor task for another activity) ___________________________________________________
  • Possible impediments __________________________________________
  • Training ___________________________________________________
  • What does successful completion look like? ____________________________
  • How will progress be reported? ____________________________________
  • To whom will progress be reported? _________________________________
  • Attach financial justification (Payback, net present value, internal rate of return)

Project Manager ____________________________________________________

Approved __________________________________________________________

During your exercise, review the available project management tools. Many include free trial periods, so for the first project scheduled after this One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge exercise, chose one or two that seem like a good fit for your organization and set up your project in both of those tools. Review the initial results with your project team and choose one and use it for the project.

Each project should have a project manager. This person’s job is to be cheerleader, communicator, coordinator, butt-kicker and problem solver. They should have a deep interest in the project itself and be able to articulate why it is important to the company. They should have not just the responsibility for the project, but also the authority to run the project team, manage project transformation activities, and spend from the project budget without being second-guessed.

The project manager should have a solid communication plan so that everyone on the team is always in sync and everyone else in the organization is up-to-date on the project’s progress. Project status should be communicated to the team at least weekly and to the rest of the organization at least monthly.

The project manager’s job is to drive the project to completion. When problems come, as they surely will, it is the project manager’s job to make course corrections, marshal the resources of the team to resolve the problems and refocus the team on project completion – all the time, keeping the balls of time, materials, money and people in the air.

After the end of every project, there should be a project post-mortem where the project itself is evaluated, the project methodology is evaluated, and the project leader and team are evaluated. The goal of this post-mortem is not to assign blame for anything that might have gone wrong, but to refine the methodology and improve the team for the next project.

If you begin to build a project management framework using these initial guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to effectively managing projects in your organization.