In my hometown, the Royals’ World Series victory last year has all of Kansas City buzzing about the possibilities of this year’s season. Will they be able to replicate their successes? Was last year the start of a dynasty run, or will they commence another thirty-year drought filled with subpar baseball?
As the sports pundits dissect the team, they consider the various factors playing into the Royals’ season as compared to other teams. The Royals’ strategy is likely to remain with the small ball game; no problem, but that strategy alone doesn’t guarantee a win. The team’s talent is respectable, but at the middle of the MLB payroll pack there are certainly other teams that arguably have more talent to compete. Their pitching is solid, but a third of the clubs have better combined ERAs, so none of these factors are the clincher. The Royals’ chances this year come down to one thing: execution. Whether or not they consistently execute — every pitch, every at-bat, every steal, every game.
That’s really the key for any MLB club. It’s the same for any team, and any organization. It’s the same for credit unions too. We can have the best talent and the best strategies, but without effective execution we can’t engineer a win for our team.
Most organizations, including credit unions, spend a great deal of time throughout the year on the topic of execution. Weekly meetings are filled with discussions of timelines, deliverables, plans-versus-actuals, and the like — a majority focused on execution. Yet, as critical as execution is, we spend little time planning for execution. The focus of our off-season planning sessions — in our case, strategic planning sessions — is strategy, not execution.
Undoubtedly, strategy is incredibly important. Equally, so is execution. Two sides of the same coin. As Morris Chang said, “Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.”
If execution is so critical, why doesn’t it get more airplay in our planning discussions? Maybe discussing our mission seems more “strategic.” Maybe execution is not as exciting as discussing the cool, new products we plan to launch. Maybe execution is too hard to define and crystallize. But, truth be told, our vision can’t be realized and our strategies can’t be accomplished without proper execution. Without proper execution, our plans may be delayed, more expensive, or fail.
Execution is more than establishing responsibilities and timeframes, and then tracking actual performance against them. Or, said better, effective execution is more than that.
For this upcoming planning season, I recommend we set aside a significant portion of time to talk about just one thing: execution. During that time we’ll answer some key execution questions:
- What have been key factors in past execution successes?
- Why have we failed to execute plans in the past?
- Do we have the right people, in the right places, to execute?
- Have we incented our staff to elevate issues as soon they arise, or does finger-pointing and blame-casting squelch opportunities to identify and correct missteps at the earliest opportunity?
- Does our staff know which decisions they are empowered to make, and which require approval? (Here’s an interesting article on that topic regarding last year’s Game 5)
- Do we continually and consistently communicate our game plan?
- Have we actively pruned items (functions, procedures, products, and reports) that consume bandwidth but no longer add value?
- Have we provided adequate training to employees to maximize their execution abilities?
By proactively planning for execution, we’ll be better prepared when we’re in the heat of the game. We’ll be less likely to need to make game-time adjustments because we’ve planned for successful execution. We’ll know we have the right players in the right places, with each of them optimized to execute each and every day.
As for the Royals’ chances to reign again, I think that has already been determined. The answer will be in how well they’ve prepared to consistently execute — every pitch, every at-bat, every steal, every game. I don’t think I or any of us need to wait until October to see how well our teams are consistently executing; we’ll know before long how well our teams have planned to execute. As they say, championships are won in the off-season! By using your upcoming “off-season” (planning sessions) to plan for effective execution, you can prepare for success next year.