When you speak to folks who have been successful in their work, you will hear a theme. Surprisingly, it is not the brilliance of their strategic plan (although they are certain to have one). And while they may mention the talent and passion of their team, it is not that either. (Again, a key component and closely connected to success.) What you will hear them brag about is: execution, execution, execution. So how do organizations execute on their plans consistently, year after year?

    As part of our annual tradition, our DBD team attended the Global Leadership Summit. This year we had the privilege to hear a great speaker, Chris McChesney of Franklin Covey*, who studied with colleagues to solve this mystery. Here is what he said,

    “The two best friends of execution are transparency and simplicity.”

    Organizations that consistently execute their plans at the highest level ensure that their priorities and plans are transparent to every single level and person in the organization. Ask anyone at Ford Motor Company today, and they will absolutely know the plan and what their role is in the execution. In fact, they will also know their supervisor’s role and their supervisor’s supervisor’s role.

    The second multiplier is simplicity; successful organizations focus and simplify. They avoid the shotgun/laundry list approach to strategic planning. In fact, the authors cite research that shows when an organization attempts to achieve 2 to 3 goals, they nail it. When they attempt to achieve 4 to 10 goals, they achieve one or two. But what do you think happens when they attempt to achieve more than 10? You guessed it – they achieve zero. You could say the “law of multiple goals” is one of diminishing returns right from the start. 


    So what does this mean to leaders out there? Should you give up your grand vision and audacious dreams? Not at all. But, it does demonstratively say: you’re best to start with those two or three key goals and nail them. Once your team has achieved that, they will be hungry for the next challenge. Be transparent with your group and boil it down for everyone in the organization.

    Remember, you are at your very best when you execute with transparency and simplicity.

    P.S. I highly recommend McChesney’s book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which you can review here.

    *You veterans out there will remember our Franklin Covey planners and time management courses in the 1980s!

    Posted by Danny Maier on Aug. 16, 2016
    Danny Maier

    Written by Danny Maier

    Dan Maier offers fundraising counsel and strategic management for local and national nonprofits, YMCAs, camps, medical and social service organizations. He offers invaluable support to clients and their volunteer leadership as they look to enhance their development campaigns, prepare for crisis communications, strengthen their boards and more.

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