Fall is in the air. That means it’s time to watch college football. If you tune in to a pre-game show or watch the post-game interviews, you will likely hear the word, “execution.” During a football game, offense, defense, special teams, individuals and units fall under scrutiny based on effective execution.
There are many questions that help a coach assess execution. But, those questions have a common thread. Were you where you were supposed to be, doing what you were supposed to do? And, coaches are very creative in their methods of expressing why it matters whether or not you were there when you were supposed to be there. Work the plan. It sounds easy.
Think about a specific football example.
An offensive unit runs a passing play. There is a clear expectation of what success looks like. The quarterback is going to throw a pass and the receiver is going to catch the pass. Have you ever watched a quarterback deliver a pass to the back of a receiver’s helmet? No catch. The ball bounces off the helmet and falls to the ground.
Questions are immediate.
Did the quarterback miss the mark? Did the receiver run the wrong route? Was it due to a failure to communicate before the play began? It could simply be a matter of timing. There are a number of factors that contribute to successful execution and it’s easy to recognize when a team is out of sync.
The same is true in organizations.
According to Professor Tony O’Driscoll, today’s organizations and institutions are increasingly out of sync. His diagnosis is straightforward. Companies suffer from a “severe case of responsiveness lag
.” There is an uncomfortable gap between what is needed and what is provided.
How can leaders close the gap?
According to O’Driscoll. Organizations get in sync by “Developing a culture that fosters learning, collaboration, innovation and adaptability.”
When a football team fails to execute, they go back, review and learn. Sometimes they utilize film to enhance learning. Then, they practice. For teams and organizations, learning and practice go hand in hand and they are most effective in teams that are willing to invest the time and effort required to create openness and trust. Healthy cultures are learning cultures where execution is coupled with healthy respect and accountability.
Learning organizations do not face fewer challenges. Advantages are produced by their willingness to learn together, share ideas and stay in sync. Instead of hiding issues or blaming others, they view failure as an opportunity to learn, practice and improve execution.
Examine your current organization. Take time to reflect:
- How well did your team execute your last strategic initiative?
- Have you reviewed your execution?
- As you look forward to your next project, is your team in sync?
- To what extent is your team culture characterized by learning, collaboration, innovation and adaptability?