Execution : A Test of Choices, Trade-offs and Perseverance

You know your purpose and mission. You know your goals. You’ve taken your idea and turned it into a plan. Now, it’s time for action.


As long as you know what you are measuring, managing, and the behaviors you are looking for, then you are almost ready to get moving.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally measure the results.”

Winston Churchill

The reason I say almost, is that more than 80% of strategies that leaders put together fail to meet their goals. Execution is where everything falls apart, but most of the time it is because we’ve missed a few pieces along the way.

When developing a plan to execute upon it comes down to a series of choices and trade-offs. You are choosing to spend your time on one thing and not another. At each level of the plan, it is about what you are choosing to do and what not to do.

If we fail to understand those choices, or if we are unwilling to completely embrace these choices, then the plan will start to unravel through the execution phase. Doubts will creep in. Resistance will mount. Priorities will shift. Other plans or tasks will compete for attention.

Whether your executing something as an individual or you are focusing a team on executing a plan, there are some common issues that creep up. Whether it is because we or others are losing focus, we don’t have sustainable actions, or we are lacking the passion to keep connected with the day to day work. We all face these issues each time we are trying to accomplish our goals.

“Complexity is the enemy of execution.”

Tony Robbins
  • Eagle Eyes – Keep your focus sharp. Focus means keeping your eye on one thing. No when to say no. Keep the message clear and sharp.
  • Establish Habits – Repeatable systems. Clearly defined roles for each person where you know what you will do, day in and day out.
  • Keep the Fires stoked – Keep the story alive on why this is important.

“It is only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Steve Jobs

Execution as a competency comes down to self awareness, being factual and embracing reality, setting clear goals and priorities, being results driven, following through, and ultimately about perseverance.

To execute effectively it is important to set clear priorities, set measurable goals, consistently review data, and measure and evaluate progress.

When working as part of a team sharing information with continuous communication is critical to keeping the effort moving forward. And of course we all need to celebrate success, and make necessary adjustments when things aren’t working.

While it takes a lot of different skills to move a strategy or goal through to successfully executing on it, sticking with those choices and trade-offs and persevering is the real test.

If you haven’t done the planning and strategizing, if you aren’t comfortable with saying no or sticking with the choices you’ve made even as barriers and resistance mounts, then it becomes almost impossible to see it through to the end.

Do the work and the planning, put your skills to the test, and then commit.

When you see it through to the finish line, and are able to inspire others to keep going to the finish line, then you will join a very, very small club of leaders who can execute. 

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