When looking for wise advice on the discipline of execution, it would be difficult to find better business experts to consult than Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy. Thanks to Charan's academic achievements and Bossidy's executive experience, their first book together, Execution, has become a classic on what it takes for business leaders to get things done.
As a teacher at Harvard Business School and Northwestern University, Ram Charan has advised senior executives at GE, DuPont, and a variety of other large and small companies for decades. While Charan was becoming a legendary consultant and educator, Larry Bossidy was chief operating officer at General Electric Credit, vice chairman at GE, and CEO at AlliedSignal and Honeywell International. Execution combines their wisdom and experiences to show business leaders what Execution looks like and how to make it happen.
In Execution, the authors dissect what Bossidy calls ìa leader's most important job.î While Bossidy writes about personal experiences from an executive's perspective, Charan digs into the practical application of the actions Bossidy describes. Together, the two authors, with the help of former Fortune editor Charles Burck, translate the tough techniques Execution entails to create a firm foundation of examples and ideas leaders can use to support their own Execution strategies.
Charan writes that Execution is not only the biggest unaddressed issue facing businesses today, but a lack of Execution "is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes." The authors explain that they wrote their book to address this issue because it has been ignored for too long in favor of other well-worn business topics.
In Execution, the authors fill the informational void with a clear description of the behaviors that organizations can adopt to gain competitive advantage in a tough marketplace. Their expert thoughts and guidance advance the idea that Execution is a discipline of its own that demands further study and practice, and a discipline that is critical for the success of all businesses.
What does it take to execute a disciplined business strategy? The authors write that it begins with a few fundamental building blocks, such as the leader's personal priorities; what they call "the social software of culture change," which includes the company's values, beliefs and norms of behavior; and the selection and appraisal of the organization's people. To improve the Execution of each of these foundational aspects of Execution, the authors dig into the people, strategy and operational processes that work together to make Execution happen. Of these three processes, the authors write, the people processes are the most important: If people processes are done well, the result is a "leadership gene pool" that can create executable strategies and turn them into operating plans with "specific points of accountability."
Beyond all of their conceptual thinking about Execution's importance to leaders, Bossidy and Charan bring their advice down to earth by offering specific steps leaders can take to build a solid plan that can be tested and then executed. By showing business leaders how to face the realities of the marketplace, competition, and the economy with clear strategies, they offer a direct link between abstract notions and actions that work. They write that their whole process begins with getting the right people into the right jobs, smart operational planning, and the development of organizational capabilities. The result is the Execution of the operating plan.
In a book that turns deep ideas about planning and doing into a practical guide to getting results, the authors have expertly executed their plan to improve Execution's visibility while helping leaders become more effective.
Review by Chris Lauer, senior editor, SEBS