Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: From Planning to “Getting Things Done” - EXECUTION by Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy

From Planning to “Getting Things Done”  
Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan with Charles Burck.
EXECUTION – The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Random House, London. 2002. pp. 288, Rs. 591 (Flipkart)

There are many books available on Strategic Planning, Human Resource Management and Development, Employee Recruitment and Motivation, Retention Skills, Change Management, Leadership Skills and Competition etc.
Bossidy and Charan’s Execution however talks about the crux of all organization’s path to excellence – the ability to Execute the Well-laid Plans to Realize the Vision

This book has nicely divided into three logical parts that talk of the need for execution, the basic ground requirements and the three core inter-linked processes for successful execution.
Most often we use a lot of data, numbers are crunched, scenarios built and multivariate forecasting done to create a grand plan but in the end it falls short of expectations. We end up achieving too little; projects are riddled with cost overruns, or in worst case scenario lose our competitive edge in the market. The problem lies with the capability of the leader to execute larger strategic plans into operational deliverables at each and every functional level with the same amount of tenacity and pace. A leader’s responsibility is to get the job done and not sit back to take feedback while pondering on mega issues. She or He has to be at the scene taking stock of the situation and making rapid course correction. In today’s world, we are talking of weeks or months to make or break performance. The luxury of an entire financial year or more is long gone. The book echoes the message that it makes a lot of difference when people see the person in action regularly monitoring and maneuvering progress. This is the key underlying message in the book.
The authors have very aptly pointed at three core necessities to build an execution-driven environment.
The Leaders’ behavior is of prime importance. How well the leader knows the business and people will decide the depth and breadth of strategic planning and operational execution. A leader should be able to set clear goals; break it down to tasks and assign the right priority to each task. The ability to mentor subordinates, decide an apt reward system and follow through at every level of execution is critical for success. A leader should be visible hands on person and not a hallowed figure accessible to a selected few. The ease with which leaders are able to make decent connect with the people and processes will be the defining factor for the business outcome. And here the authors also stress on the ability of the leader to honestly and objectively be aware of his/ her capacity and capability.
Another crucial factor is a culture that drives the need to be execution – oriented. Leaders have to bring in the necessary cultural change in the organization setting it in a framework for implementation.
But the most essential part is staffing each position with the right person. The authors point at the need for leaders to know the people before recruiting them so that the leadership gene pool is strong and vibrant. Thus, HR’s role becomes more critical and serious in these circumstances.
In the third and final section of the book, the authors stress on the linkage of three core processes – people (structure), strategy and operations. Strategy can be executed if the people who are assigned the task are suitable and have the same culture of urgency to deliver. Manning right people means both in terms of quantity and quality. This is a very good point since often companies are understaffed and performance falters. The role of HR is more dynamic today than the earlier times when they had a more passive function. Not only are they responsible for recruitment and retention but to manage the non-performers.
The ultimate goal of the people process is to create a “leadership pipeline” that is always green. Often organizations are single leader dependent which is an unsustainable proposition.
Execution can be fine tuned when people, strategy and operations are intertwined and planned in conjunction. The strategy to make the business grow based on competitive forces or decision to expand and in which direction depends on the vision of the leader. What are the issues in making the strategy work and how can it be counteracted is part of the strategy thinking process. Operation is more hands – on about budgets and building the operational plan. The section on operational plan is very apt and worth emulating.  
This book is quite refreshing and unique in this genre as it has been written by drawing the strengths of people from both ends of the spectrum – one who is a business advisor, author and speaker and other is a man who has worked in stellar organizations with remarkable performance record. Ram Charan is a well-known business advisor, speaker and author, admired for this practical real world perspective and solutions. He was a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School where he earned his MBA with distinction, as well as his DBA. Lawrence Bossidy (Larry) has worked in companies like Honeywell International and General Electric Credit (now GE Capital Corporation) as their CEO.
This book is highly recommended for established and existing business leaders and young upcoming leaders who are being groomed for greater responsibility. The dialogue of both the authors interspersed in the book removes the monotony which usually plagues most of the business books.

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