“What do you think is the most difficult, planning or execution?” I asked.
“Planning is no slouch,” Travis replied, “but execution is where things go wrong. We may have a perfect plan, but we don’t have perfect execution.”
“Travis, sometimes I look at all the things a company wants to do, process changes, re-engineering, efficiency programs. They are all good ideas, yet, most fail. Why?”
“Execution?” pondered Travis.
“So, why did the execution fail? I saw the written plans. I attended some of the meetings. I observed the training. I watched the pep rallies. I saw the teamwork posters on the wall. I know incredible amounts of money, resources and energy went in to make it happen. In the end, not much changed. So, what went wrong?”
Travis hesitated, “Execution?”
“I saw team members trying new sequences, working with new equipment, handing off projects in new ways. But in the end, it didn’t stick. A new process would get shortcut. The old way worked faster. The enthusiasm faded into push-back. The word on the floor was, if we stiff arm it long enough, the re-engineering would go away. Morale plummeted. Ultimately, the initiative was abandoned. What stopped the execution?”
Travis wasn’t sure.
“Management focused all of their attention prior to the change. Little or no thought was given to how the new behaviors would be positively reinforced. What gets reinforced gets repeated. What does not get reinforced will stop. Dead in its tracks.”