Six Disciplines of Execution

Execution seems to be a persistent problem that plagues many leaders.  My constant frustration with this led me to re-read Gary Harpst, Six Disciplines of Execution this month.  Harpst provides some helpful charts and a detailed strategic process for execution that’s worth the price of the book alone.

Here are a few of my highlights from the book (sorry, doesn’t include the cool charts!)

  • Leaders who build organizations with the ability to balance strong strategy with strong execution over long periods of time achieve enduring excellence.
  • Walmart is not great at execution because they are big, they’re big because they’re great at executing their strategy.
  • Concentrate on solving the problem that makes all other problems soluble.
  • It’s better to have a grade B strategy and grade A execution than the other way around.
  • We usually know what to do. It’s just that we don’t always do it.
  • “Vision without execution is a hallucination” Thomas Edison
  • There are three major barriers to execution: insufficient expertise, prohibitive economics and simple human nature.
  • Creeping misalignment occurs everyday, often in very small ways, as the organization changes.
  • “Changing people’s behavior: It’s the most important challenge for businesses trying to compete in a turbulent world. The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture or systems.  The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.”  John Kotter
  • When people don’t understand each other, nothing gets accomplished. But when communication is clear, there’s little that can’t be achieved.
  • We discovered that the foundation of a complete program balancing strategy and execution is having a well defined, repeatable methodology.
  • The purpose of methodology is to accelerate the learning of proven best practices for building any business.
  • Repeatability is critical to learning.
  • The earlier you catch an error, the less costly it is to fix it.
  • “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities” Stephen Covey
  • An organization that’s not growing is much easier to manage than one that is growing.
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Mac Lake is the Development Pastor at Seacoast Church, a multi-site church with 13 campuses, where he oversees leadership development, small groups, missions, communications, and internships. He is a popular church leadership conference speaker and the author of the training resource Growing Small Group Leaders. Learn more from Mac at