It’s What You Do – The Keys to Execution

Two months ago, Todd introduced me to Laurence Haughton. I'm not sure why, but my guess is because he thought I would enjoy Laurence's new book. I had read his first book, It's Not the Big That Eat The Small, It's the Fast That Eat The Slow and I enjoyed it, so I jumped at the chance to review his new book It's Not What You Say… It's What You Do. The short review: I loved it. Now for the longer review that explains why.

Business books tend to be too idealistic. I've read way too many that talk about all these great strategies that led so-and-so to become the best CEO in the industry. They are usually vague and difficult to apply to my life. This book is nothing like that. Let me give you an example. In the book, Laurence discusses IKEA. When he asks what has made IKEA so successful, he is given a vague answer. But he writes

A book on follow-through can't throw out vauge concepts like "passion" and "the right conditions," along with general directives like "have values" and "be humanistic." After all, according to the first building block of follow-through, clear direction, ambiguity is why so many expectations aren't met.

You won't read that in many business books.

The goal of this book is to teach you how to execute. That is, it will teach you how to follow through to make sure things get done that are supposed to get done. It is divided into four parts, and the first part alone, "Clear Direction," is worth the price of the book. The second part is "The Right People," followed by "Buy-In" and "Individual Initiative."

Laurence begins the book with a startling statistic. Fifty percent of company initiatives fall through the cracks within two years. From there, the book is packed with useful information about how to be in the half that succeeds instead of the half that fails.

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My favorite "aha" moment from the book came when I read that

Most managers have a tendency to leap to conclusions, seek confirmatory evidence [the facts that tell them they are right] while ignoring disconfirming evidence , and are overconfident about the validity of their judgements.

Remember all that stuff I've written about cognitive biases? Well here they are in action. Studies show that we repeatedly seek out evidence to confirm our positions, when we should do the opposite.

The best idea (for me anyway) from the book was to make people write stuff down.

Just make it a policy that when making important decisions everyone must put their thoughts in writing.

Writing forces people to be more aware about what they know and what they don't know, and can help them see when they aren't thinking things through thoroughly.

That's why I like blogging. It actually helps me realize what I think. If I don't think a post through (which happens more than I'd like to admit) I'll end up with comments pointing out obvious problemlems in my thought patterns.

Usually, when I review a book, I like to state who would benefit from reading it. In this case, most anyone would benefit. Laurence has written a book that poses a strong challenge to my favorite business book of all time, Execution by Bossidy and Charan. I haven't read their book in a few years, so I'll have to re-read it and compare the two.

Go get this book. If you are serious about improving the execution and follow through of your company, you need it.

  • This applies to the area of web ventures and web products just as it does to business in general.

    An effective online strategy should never be developed in a vacuum, without considering the financial resources and human capabilities required to execute. It’s critical to link strategic specifics to a realistic operating plan, which breaks the longer-term goals into short-term targets and then into specific action plans. In this way, execution is fundamental to strategy, and has a huge role in shaping it.