Vision Without Execution is Hallucination

Factors to Close the Execution Gap

Thomas Edison’s quote, uttered more than 100 years ago, rings true across organizations of all sizes in the year 2013. In fact, in a wobbly economy where entrepreneurial activity is on the rise, execution is even more critical for success and survival.

There was a time when strategic planning was a leader’s primary focus and concern. That is no longer the case, strategic planning is important, but as a sole focus of leadership it’s a luxury.  In the start-up realm the analogy would be a founder fixated on creating the perfect business plan but finding themselves crippled when it comes to turning that plan into action. Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different skils sets that leadership must possess in order to take an idea from concept to reality.

In the current business climate, a well-implemented mediocre idea is far better than a great idea that can’t get off the ground. A great idea is a starting point—execution is what differentiates a winner from a loser creating barriers to entry and long-term viability.

So, what can start-up or even growth stage companies do to support execution? Here are five thoughts based on what I’ve personally observed in more than 15 start-ups during my career.
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A New Spin on Marketing: The Art of Communicating from the Inside Out

A sharp friend introduced me to this May 4, 2010 TEDx Presentation by Simon Sinek, a sharp/tragically hip leadership guru who has a unique spin on the art of marketing. On his web site he starts his own bio with “Simon Sinek is an optimist.” I like that, and I believe it (The Nun is certainly an optimist). So, I’m following his blog. I think that’s what he means when he talks about the fact that we are drawn to things we care about or things we relate to emotionally. Per a recent tweet:

When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.

His thesis is fairly simple—It’s not what you do but why you do it—that’s what people connect to, that’s what makes good ideas into great products. So it’s about passion, leading with heart & soul and drawing a crowd who really get’s the message. And maybe instead of colors and personality tests—what about hiring people who believe what you believe? Let’s be honest, if we’re going to spend more than 10 hours a day doing something, we ought to be motivated by more than a financial payoff. In a tough market companies need adequate capital, good people and favorable market conditions. But in a really tough economy, companies need passion and leadership that believes in something. As Sinek said, “Martin Luther King had a dream not plan”… True dat!

The same is true of any relationship, we seek to be known and understood. When we feel understood, we are attracted—yea, works on eHarmony and for Apple Corporation. So it’s only taken 47 short years for that to click, but better late than never…