Execution: The Intersection of Perseverance & Delivery
How many good ideas or strategies have been abandoned because of an inability to execute? A number equivalent to the stars in the universe is likely a good estimate.
“The thing that keeps a business ahead of the competition is excellence in execution.” – Tom Peters
There are many great quotes about business execution. The point of most is that it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, without competent execution there can be no success. Execution done right leads to results.
Execution is creation. It brings ideas to life.
Execution is the action to strategy’s concept. It is the reality to strategy’s theory. Those who execute must not only interpret what must be done, but also determine the best way to do it within the constraints they’re bound by. Execution constraints can include:
Skill / Knowledge gaps
Execution aptitude isn’t just a ‘set it and forget it’ exercise. It requires constant evaluation and adjustment. The strongest executors, whether they be individuals, teams or companies are those that fluidly and flexibly optimize execution tactics. They possess the capabilities and the drive that set the stage for high-performance execution.
What is the Execution Intersection? Execution is the intersection of perseverance and delivery (see Intersection 16 image below). Perseverance without delivery is just wheel-spinning, wasted effort. Delivery without perseverance is a one-and-done, result-irrelevant outcome. When combined though they complete the formula for capable execution.
Perseverance In the context of execution, perseverance is a relentless, but not careless, focus on the objective. There’s a fine line to be managed between productiveness and foolishness when it comes to perseverance. Assuming productiveness is the path taken, resilience and persistence are the driving forces toward execution.
In my experience, success is hard to come by on the first try. It usually comes after multiple iterations and pivots to overcome obstacles and navigate unexpected changes. It’s true that contingencies can be planned for, but it’s impossible to proactively identify them all.
A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. Many times, perseverance is about failing fast and moving to the next iteration. The key is ensuring that each iteration is different (i.e. improved) from the one before. It’s about making informed decisions that guide the execution effort. At times, identifying what doesn’t work is as important as identifying what does.
Intersection 16: Execution = Perseverance + Delivery
Delivery Simply put, execution depends on something being ‘delivered’, whether it’s a product, process, project or service. Delivery is hard but rewarding. There’s a sense of accomplishment, as there should be, that comes with delivery. There is no success without delivery having been completed though. Some people, teams and companies are good at it, and others aren’t.
Interestingly, most of the time those doing the delivery are not the ones who came up with the strategy, idea, concept or project. Therefore, before any delivery-related activity takes place there’s an exercise in interpretation, or translation, of what the intended result should 'look like'. Upon final delivery there will be judgment…how closely does what was delivered match the original intent or expectation?
Done correctly delivery requires its own set of skills and abilities:
Together, perseverance and delivery create the foundation on which execution happens.
What Can Leaders Do? Leaders in the most successful companies proselytize the value of strong execution. They build the appropriate skills and experience in the individuals and teams responsible for execution. Excellence in execution is a company-wide priority.
Leaders also know that execution happens on many levels and across disciplines, whether it be on the overall strategy, product development, business development, customer relationship management or communication.
Execution requires as much focus and attention as strategy.
Wrap Up & Up Next Execution is half of the performance equation. When paired properly with strategy, performance is more achievable.
Next time we’ll examine the 17th intersection of performance, which is the Delivery Intersection. In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.