This is one of my favorite books. It was first published in 2002, but is as relevant now as it was when it was first published. There have been several re-issues since then and second hand copies should be available cheaply. My copy is well worn and full of notes! I would consider this book a classic in strategy execution. The book focuses what the authors describe as the discipline of getting things done. I have always liked this book because it focuses on execution, not strategy, which I am passionate about. There are simply too many books that focus on telling the reader how to develop a strategy, rather than how to execute it.
The authors are Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Bossidy is a highly acclaimed CEO, who has a track record for delivering results. Ram Charan is an advisor to senior executives and boards of directors. In the first section of the book, the authors define three building blocks that they hold is key to execution. On the first building block the authors describe what they call the seven essential behaviors of leaders. For me this is very useful because it focuses on what do I as a leader needs to do. Too many strategy books focus on what I as a leader need to know. Most people who buy books on strategy I think are seeking answers to what do I need to do rather than theoretical approaches. Listed in the essential behaviors of leaders are things like leaders know their people and their business, insist on realism, set clear goals and priorities, follow through, reward those who deliver and so forth. The second building block describes how to create a framework for cultural change. To change a business’s culture, you need a set of processes, or social operating mechanisms, that will change the beliefs and behavior of people in ways that are directly related to bottom-line results. You need to change people’s behavior so that they produce results. For a leader this is a crucial activity as the leader usually sets the culture of a company. The third building block is having the right people in place. For me this block is the most important. The authors highlight the importance of selecting, reviewing and appointing the right people and provide tools and examples that the reader can use to assist them. No matter how good the strategy is, how good the leader is and how enabling the culture is you cannot expect the wrong people to deliver the right results.
In the second part of the book the authors define three processes of execution i.e. people processes which links the strategy with operation, the strategy process which makes the link with people and operations and the operations process which links strategy and people. Here the authors are less successful. It feels rushed in its execution and somewhat incomplete, whilst many of the examples are a repetition of the first section. The second part of the book is thus not its strength but does not, however, detract from the excellent first section. Overall the book is written in easy to read layman’s language, and thus accessible to all. The authors place a lot of focus on people. This is the strength of the book. They highlight that the key to effective execution revolves around getting the right people in place, creating the right culture so that the right people can deliver and leading. I like this because it is the to success key in my experience. No matter how bright you are, once you get into a senior position your key to success is getting results through people. In that way the book is different in that it focuses on the things people should rather than on the way in which they do them. For me this book is one of the best reads in executing strategy and is highly, highly recommended.