Category: Human Resource

Ambitious business man climbing stairs to success.

Performance & Execution: Key to Successful, Individual / Business Leadership

Today’s reality is that we are living in an era marked by resource crunch, scarcity of time, multitasking, intense competition, eternal stress, complex and regulatory external environment, less of emotions and engagement. An individual trying to meet family expectation to become  more prosperous & successful, a sales person requiring to deliver his monthly budget/ target, a business organization aiming to create more stakeholder value to become the best place to work, a footballer striving to score a goal  in a derby match, a cricketer steering almost single handed winning performance in IPL matches, a Corporate honcho expected  to deliver bottom line strategy, a surgeon expected to successfully operate a critical patient to donate life, an academician immaculately delivering a lecture  as keynote speaker in an international seminar, a military  General fighting insurgency and infiltration in LOC all have them one thing in common e.g., performance execution. There are numerous other examples of such performance execution in an around us every day which we often not pay heed to. The moot point here however whether it is performance execution or performance and execution and if that be so whichever comes first. This is akin to the chicken and egg story which we are hearing since ages. Performance and Execution is complementary to each other and can be said as the two sides of a same coin. In order to perform we need to execute and unless we execute we cannot perform. And with our stretched targets, strict timelines and with the survival of the fittest we need to execute, deliver and perform religiously and relentlessly.

But how do we ensure performance delivered is execution, decide what to do as a part of our strategy that execution makes it happen?  This is true for us as an individual and for an organization as well. Of course hereinafter we’ll discuss it in terms of a business organization’s perspective. The five fundamental steps which precedes execution is (a) goal/ objective setting (b) accountability & ownership (c) engage to deliver (d) follow up (e) review and monitoring (e) further stretching our goals i.e., raising the bar. Let’s elaborate these to understand how it impacts the execution leading to performance. Goal Setting: In order to perform we need to ascertain what we need to achieve (say, execute) i.e., to set up clear goals and /or objectives which we’ll pursue. The clarity of goals for everybody in the organization is a must and it is in fact supplements the role clarity for a job which means making an employee understand what is expected out of him/her which are aligned with the overall business objective embedded in the broad organization strategy. And this goal setting has to be done in terms of defining KRAs & KPIs (Key Result Areas and Key Performance Indicators) which we are required to deliver, review, track and monitor on a regular basis to sustain our efforts to execute. Now this could be made both at macro (high level) and micro (granular level). In fact the more granular is our KPIs and action plans the more will be the likelihood of achieving the same. It is something like the entire organization is aligned in terms of its vision and mission which is then translated in to goals, strategies, action plan and last but not the least is in to seamless coordination, collaboration and co-optition (collaborative completion) to implement.  Accountability & Ownership: However this is easier said than done and requires total accountability and ownership. It is one of the key challenge today, which  if a business manager/ departmental head and or CEO handles successfully can lead to empowered teams, exceptional performance and removal of silo cultures inside the organization which often impedes performance. It is to make people assume the ownership of the job/ task internalizing it as his/her own instead of assigned or top driven and make them accountable (responsible) for their, work, action, results and the flipside of it i.e., to its consequences. Engage & Deliver: Nothing happens automatically. If having set the goals and assuming the ownership and accountability is the necessary condition for executing performance, to engage and deliver is the sufficient condition for sure. No matter whatever we do or whatever we say if all our employees having unified goals are not engaged enough they cannot deliver. This is another big challenge most of the business organizations are working with these days e.g., how to ensure that the employees are engaged effectively. An organization has to make the employees’ task interesting, meaningful & challenging, enabling him/ her with necessary resources, guidance, direction and opportunities to perform. One way of doing it could be linking it to higher/ fast track growth opportunities, rewards and recognition, giving assignment in cross functional projects or making them the change agent for new or critical initiatives. An objective and transparent evaluation of employee performance together with providing appreciative feedback also can work as a feel good factor for the employee and made him/her to remain engaged on a sustainable basis. Once this is done then delivering becomes the follow through. Follow up: However these follow through is a continuous affair and need to be done regularly and can be done let us say by doing daily work check in and work check outs. Normally check in is done at the beginning of the day to decide what we do today and check out is done preferably at the end of the day to take stock of our follow up action to ensure that we’ve made the desired progress in executing our action plans and thereby converting our goals in to strategy and implementing it on ground. This is in fact the precursor to tracking, review and monitoring of our performance. Review & Monitoring: The most important aspect in closing the performance loop is review and monitoring. A business manager /CEO would never allow this loop to keep open and squander the opportunity to consolidate further whatever quick wins have been made so far. A robust review and monitoring mechanism is an important tool in the business planning process and can work wonders in keeping the performance on track once practiced rigorously. There could be a structured and unstructured review considering the time, availability of the concerned people, criticality of the task/ project in terms of significance (urgency) and its impact on the business. An unstructured review could be done during our day to day discussions on the KPI/topic on a one to one basis or may be during conference call, telephonic discussions and visits to the work site (shop floor, customer premises, market etc.). A structured review on the other hand could be done through performance trackers, dashboards and formal review presentations involving all the stakeholders. The first one is an informal approach and the second one is a formal approach to review and monitoring. Which one should be applied is perhaps to be left to the manager and / or organization to decide in keeping in mind the frequency and importance of the review, however a mix n match of the both is seen as a rational approach these days. But merely having the review and monitoring done is far from achieving the objectives for which it is done. The progress status of our tracking, review and monitoring is then requires to be translated in to further actions wherever we are behind our prorata KPI target and revisit our target/ KPIs wherever we are ahead of our target. This has to be clearly supplemented by removing bottlenecks (if, any) distracting our performance and by quick decision making to keep our action (job) on track by reinforcing resources and motivation together. Stretching the Goals Further: Executing performance requires us to revisit the goals continuously and raise the bar. As Michelangelo said “the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”.

A god performance execution requires an organized and systematic approach to deal with the current reality by highlighting the root cause and taking concrete action on it. It is in fact a rigorous process to find out what, how and why’s of our business goals, strategies and questioning the efficacy of execution from time to time and to ensure proper follow through and accountability. The performance execution requires discipline which needs to be practiced regularly and to be made performance thy name is execution a way of our life.

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Business strategy success target goals.

CAP Your Performance

We’ve just bade goodbye to an eventful year 2020 and ushered in a brand-new year 2021. The pandemic has thrown up many a gauntlet to all of us in terms of social distancing, health care safety, disruptions in supply chain, business loss, contraction of economic growth, job loss, furloughing, retrenchment and so on. Since it is now certain that the Social distancing will remain and the existing business model in many a case has to undergo radical changes in the new normal, the business enterprise and / or the corporates therefore are chary investing in Capex, Opex and / or in people. Although it is true that People only can save the organization out of this deep crisis as posed by the pandemic yet most of them have resorted to act on manpower restructuring, rationalizing characterized by right sizing or downsizing.

The moot point then is how to keep pace and adapt oneself to such changes and yet been able to keep himself /herself relevant to the organization in terms of the roles and responsibilities one is pursuing. Now this requires us to add new skill sets, understand the external environment better and closely monitor the changing customer behavior to quickly adapt to the volatile demand and deliver performance. The entire situation is characterized as VUCA i.e., volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous as we know and the same is accentuated by D as its prefix and suffix i.e., D VUCA D which means that D=Disruption in VUCA environment which is D= Diverse (in Diversity) in nature. *

What is that one thing therefore which can keep ourselves afloat in such a DVUCAD environment? It is our sheer PERFORMANCE which is the very basis of an employers’ expectation in the corporate world. It is a cliché to know that “Change is the only constant in this changing world” and the process, not the outcome of change is painful. In situations where organizations are adopting for a change and / or in situations / events like mergers, acquisitions, restructuring, accomplishing turnkey projects, crisis management, disruptions etc. (which is the order of the day) what we can strive to achieve and control is our performance only and not the volatility and various other extraneous factors and complexities which is shaping the events, it’s outcomes even. But HOW to focus on PERFORMANCE which can save the day for us (Leaders’) in changing times?

The way we respond to any event/situation/circumstances usually determines the outcome i.e., E+R=O (where, E=Events, R=Response and O=Outcome). It is often seen that instead of taking the responsibility for the event we squarely put the blame on it and take refuge under it. Unless we stop blaming the event for the outcome and instead accept full responsibility for it, we cannot drive performance either for self or for others say, the team members. A better understanding of the PERFORMANCE Eco System (Illustration 1 as given below) together with its Drivers’ and elements would necessarily lead us to master the art of PERFORMANCE. A closer look at a simple Performance Eco System as given in the exhibit below will help us to understand what actually drives our performance. We are all aware about that famous oft quoted concept that Performance = Potential minus Interference, which has almost become a cliché however as against the same let’s explore a different aspect of Performance which is explained as Performance = Ownership+Commitment+Accountability=Potential. Unless we take ownership and are not committed, nothing happens. The answer lies in the question how to CAP your performance? Where, CAP is Commitment, Accountability leading to performance. The Strategy House in the following exhibit lucidly explains the important pillars of the eco system as to how performance leads to potential or alternatively potential leads to performance. In Performance we want to Achieve and in order to achieve we need to be aware of what we want to achieve, aspire for it, align ourselves 100% with the goal and with the team and accentuate our efforts to take the necessary Action which is the next pillar. Now in order to initiate Action we are required to plan our action, take a pledge to proceed and review, monitor and track the progress regularly and consistently without getting distracted. And our Action taken will determine how do we Deliver? Delivering is again dependent on the skills we possess or acquire over a period of time couple with the scale of our actions we envisage and the speed of our action taken i.e., the agility of our action, decision and implementation to achieve the desired performance. However, as leaders are supposed to and should always hold ourselves Accountable for the integrity best exhibited in terms of our personal and business ethics and enable and empower ourselves towards being accountable to all our actions, consequences and the result. And finally, this integrated chain of aspiring to action to deliver with ethics and integrity convincingly leads us to our much-desired Performance which is the ultimate outcome to be standardized, sustained and spearheaded to be replicated fast both inside out and to outside in for all our stakeholders’.


Exhibit 1

To sum up we would say that the Driver of our POCAP model is accountability & commitment and the final output is Performance. And integral to the abovesaid process is three key elements of Communication, Collaboration and Coordination without which the entire eco system can not work. A seamless coordination, collaboration and coordination in terms of synergizing all our efforts is the key to an authentic leadership in terms of leveraging the true potential of an accomplished leader to deliver the much sought-after performance.

INSEAD, Cement Industry Professional, Lead Management Consultant, Sales & Marketing, Supply Chain & Logistics.

*D-VUCA-D: Leadership Altitudes, by Prof. Ian C. Woodward, INSEAD Singapore.

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