Every entrepreneur loves great opportunities, but if you can't execute, you're just wasting everyone's time and energy. In his new must-read book, Scaling Up (Gazelles Inc. 2015), growth guru Verne Harnish identifies 3 warning signs of poor execution:

1. There is needless drama in the organization (e.g., something shipped out late; the invoice was wrong; someone missed a meeting; etc.).

2. Everyone seems to be working more hours, spinning their wheels, or spending too much time fixing things that should have been done right the first time.

3. Most important, the company is generating less than three times industry average profitability.

Even if you only have one of these problems you need to shore up your execution capability. In his book, Harnish provides a 10-point checklist assessment for fixing execution, which he shares below. Great companies should have all 10 right, because missing even 2 or 3 will slow you down significantly.

1. Healthy Management Team

The executive team is healthy and aligned. In essence, your executive team needs to have a level of trust that permits true debate and constructive conflict to occur. What prevents this in large companies is politics; what blocks it in growth firms is friendship. How healthy is your team? Really?

2. Alignment to the #1 Priority Each Quarter

Harnish says scaling a firm is about taking one significant step at a time and then checking data and adjusting accordingly. It is about setting a quarterly goal, providing the company with a badly needed finish line every 90 days versus just running and running and running. If your people aren't aligned, you are losing valuable time and energy.

3. Consistent and Productive Meeting Rhythms

A regular communication rhythm must be established so that information can move through the organization accurately and quickly. Harnish believes the #1 challenge when any two or more people are working together is communication. He advocates an effective daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual Meeting Rhythm, which, when executed properly, actually saves everyone a tremendous amount of time.

4. Clear Accountabilities for Meeting Goals

If everyone is accountable, then no one is. Harnish points out that this needs to be clear both vertically (across functions) and horizontally (across processes) throughout any organization. And it really gets messy when the organization moves to discrete business units.

5. Consistent Employee Feedback

Ongoing employee input must be collected regularly to identify obstacles and opportunities. Harnish recommends getting lots of feedback, especially from your sales channels and your frontline employees since they are closest to the action. Leaders must identify and eliminate the roadblocks to keep people motivated.

6. Abundant Customer Feedback

Harnish believes that reporting and analysis of customer feedback data should be conducted with the same frequency and accuracy as with financial data. Customers provide not only information on how you are doing, but also valuable information about competitors that can help you advance.

7. Core Values and Purpose Are "Alive" in the Organization

If the culture is weak or undefined, the company will falter at high speed. You need rules; rules (Core Values) that guide all the HR systems in the company: hiring, feedback, rewards and recognition, handbook, etc. Also, a stated purpose providing the critical "why" behind everything you do will help with continuous motivation in challenging times.

8. Everyone Can Articulate the Strategy

You want all employees to align their actions with the strategy of the company. Harnish provides a one-page strategic plan that everyone can understand. It covers the culture, long-term vision and short-term actions. It also outlines company messaging so everyone knows what to say and when to say it.

9. Everyone Knows If They Had a Good Day or Week

Is each employee or team clear on their priorities and KPIs for the week? And, do they know how they did the previous week? More than just management needs to know how people are doing so they can do everything possible to move the dial forward. People love to know the score and play their part in the competition.

10. The Company's Plans and Performance Are Visible to Everyone

Harnish strongly advocates posting huge scoreboards visible to everyone. The team needs to see the overall performance so they know they are having impact both individually and together. This lets everyone know when they need to turn it up a notch and that they are not alone.

Published on: Nov 7, 2014
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