Flawless Execution in 2010’s Brutal Business Environment
I’ve been reflecting over the past couple of weeks and realized that I’ve been fortunate to hear several excellent speakers at a variety of events lately. These inspiring speakers have shared valuable information on topics such as flawless execution within an organization, the importance of core values, critical exit strategies, and insightful economic predictions. When some colleagues encouraged me to share my notes, I thought this would make an excellent blog series.
My friends at the law firm of Stites & Harbison, PLLC, invited me to join them at an event put on by Womenetics in late January. Entitled “Business is Combat: A Program That Will Change the Way You Do Business,” it was led by James “Murph” Murphy and Tracy “Jackie O” LaTourrette, former F-15 fighter pilots from Afterburner, a business process improvement firm. The program focused on how to compete in the brutal business environment of 2010 using flawless execution to meet corporate goals for success.
If you ever get a chance to hear anyone from Afterburner speak, go! Fighter pilots can certainly give a lot of compelling examples of the importance of flawless execution. Even though most of our daily jobs presumably do not risk life and limb, the methodology fighter pilots use certainly translates to business. Murph and Jackie O showed several videos as part of their talk, including what it’s like to be in the cockpit of a jet feeling 9 G’s (and still having to focus on what’s important), Blue Angels in action (and afterwards, dissecting that day’s performance), and even of a doomed flight’s pilots being so distracted by unimportant details that they missed the critical fact that they were losing altitude.
Some key takeaways from the talk were:
- Companies are systems, and systems by nature resist change. It’s important to map out possible future threats/obstacles. Find the centers of gravity – the most important factors that affect other aspects of the system – and execute against those to reach your goals. Attack in parallel, not serial, so as to affect everything at once and force change into the system.
- The biggest threats to most organizations trying to change are complacency, apathy and indifference.
- After putting a plan together, bring in an outside team to tear the plan apart and poke holes in it. Then you can finalize it and include individual accountabilities as well as how the results will be measured.
- The main reason plans aren’t executed is Task Saturation® – Afterburner’s term for “having too much to do.” We all brag about how busy we are, but as Task Saturation increases, errors increase and performance decreases. So it’s important to focus on the mission objective and the plan. Have checklists to follow and delegate whatever can be delegated. Have dashboards of critical factors to focus on and keep an eye on them.
- In the Marines, after every mission, there’s a debriefing where every team member literally takes the Velcro rank off their uniform and they hash out what went right and wrong. It’s okay for the Lieutenant to tell the General where he didn’t execute the plan flawlessly, because if it isn’t corrected in the plan for the next mission, someone’s life may be at stake. This accelerates learning for everyone – it’s important to set a time and place to debrief the entire team.
There was a lot more than that, so again, go see Afterburner present if you get the chance. And go forth and execute flawlessly!