Vision without Execution is Hallucination
This is one of my favorite quotes. The internet references various sources: Japanese proverb, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford, but the message is clear — ideas alone do nothing. You must also be able to IMPLEMENT those ideas.
I’ve studied Strategic Management throughout my decades-long college years and strategy has always been of interest to me. But I’ve found that it’s typically easier to think of a strategy than it is to actually make strategic plans happen.
Deep down, you know this is true. How many of your good ideas have disappeared due to inaction?
Here are a few tips to go from thinking about doing something to actually getting it done:
- Make it personal: It’s easy to suggest new ideas for other people to implement. The husband should finally build that firepit to anchor our vision for the new outdoor living space, the HR department should start collecting employee surveys as a baseline so we can see improvements as we implement our long-term strategy…you can insert your own examples here. Ideas are very important, but without implementation they aren’t of much value. Large-scale implementation can be overwhelming, but the easiest way to win is to start with something you can control. Look for areas within your personal or work life where you can execute something on a small scale that may also be expanded for longer-term benefit.
- For example, I’ve found that many companies have trouble getting started with Twitter. It seems overwhelming. Last year, I decided to live-tweet from our annual tradeshow, using a specific hashtag on all tweets. We set up a live-tweet feed (using TweetWall.com) on our corporate intranet, so employees back at the office could follow the tradeshow feed from their desks. After the tradeshow was over, we used TweetReach to report various metrics. The company was able to see the direct results, which eventually led to a more deliberate corporate social media program. I used my own twitter account and free online tools to implement twitter for a single event, which was enough to show the longer-term benefit, without relying on others to complete the tasks.
- Try something new within your own sphere of influence: Changing corporate culture is very difficult and can take a long time to happen. As a result, people often think of it as someone else’s problem. However, every position has its own sphere of influence. Look for ways to influence your team in a positive way. Even the smallest changes can be beneficial in the long-term.
- For years, I had my kids share their “proudest and funnest” parts of each day before bed. The idea was to end the day with a positive thought, with the long-term goal of building optimistic kids. Later, I implemented a similar idea during weekly IT staff meetings. While the IT guys sometimes balked at having to think about the best moment of the week, I believe it definitely helped our IT department overcome some negativity that was previously creeping in. I also noticed that each member of the department began looking for opportunities to turn ordinary tasks into “success moments”.
- Practice on a smaller scale: You may have a great idea for boosting productivity within your organization, but the realities of implementing the idea throughout the entire company may be outside of your control. Instead of tackling the entire company, try your idea out with a group of like-minded folks.
- I have dozens of examples where a particular solution or process was used on a small scale with one group and later rolled out corporate-wide. Most recently was chat — certainly not a new technology, but the company had a bad experience with it in the past and was hesitant to try it again. We rolled it out in IT, then added it to our web site for real-time chat with customer service. After just a few months, the entire company was onboard.
- Make it simple: Often our excuse for not implementing new ideas is “it’s not that simple”. So, make it simple. Figure out how to implement the idea with none of the complexities. Boil it down to the basic elements that make it a good idea and then do it.
- Years ago I was head of IT at an order fulfillment services company (we packaged and shipped orders). For years, I lobbied for performance measurement and metrics, but implementation always stalled due to complexity. Who decides the metrics? How are they measured? To get things moving, we started with the basic minimum information that was already available. Start with what you have and then build on top of small success.
- Follow a proven approach: My executive team is currently working through the 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a step-by-step guide for focused results. Within one month, we’ve identified our Wildly Important Goal, along with two sub-goals and measurements. We’re still working through the process, but the book has given us a framework that makes it easy to push forward in spite of the whirlwind of daily activity.
The bottom line is to stop trying and start doing. As Yoda says “Do, or do not. There is no try.”