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Everyday Leadership

Execution is the hardest part of any plan

February 6, 2008
Marietta Times
It is true that leaders are responsible for inventing the future of their organizations and creating a strategic plan for making that future a reality.

Neither of those two processes is easy but the most difficult part of effective leadership is executing the plan. With good research about the customers’ needs and the state of the industry along with respectful facilitation skills, the first two leadership responsibilities are very doable.

General George Patton in a letter to General Eisenhower in 1926 said, “Victory in the next war will depend on execution not plans.” Obviously Patton was right. I don’t think he didn’t believe in planning but he knew that the best plans poorly executed are irrelevant. Successful execution means getting all employees to buy-in.

So, how do leaders enable successful execution of a plan? First an implementation team should be created. During the creation of the team, a thorough discussion of the team’s communication must be held. Many times people play games with their communication. It is not an accident they do so. It is an issue of safety and not being comfortable saying what they think. Therefore, during the team-building, the environment must be set that allows everyone to be as open and honest as possible. Identifying barriers to open communication allows team members to work on specific behaviors for improvements.

Next, leaders must communicate the plan to all employees affected. As a matter of fact, leaders should create a communication plan to roll out explanation of the strategic plan. This communication should be repeated in various forums. Start with all employee meetings and continue with small group meetings to discuss the plan in detail. The implementation team members must be the champions of the plan.

If they believe the plan will do good things for the organization and for individual employees, that belief is the basic message in the meetings above. Each employee must understand what his or her responsibilities are and feel his/her actions will make a positive difference.

Once all stakeholders understand the plan, its value, and their specific parts in making the plan work, periodic progress reviews should be held. In these progress reviews, employees can explain the status of the plan, where they are having problems, and where they need additional resources. Leaders need to remove all roadblocks for success. Finally, hold a celebration event to thank all the parties for their efforts.

Most employees will step up the plate and do the right thing for the organization and for themselves if the above process is followed.

R. Glenn Ray is the president of RayCom Learning and author of “You Can’t Push a Pig into a Truck: Everyday Leadership Lessons.” He can be reached at 1-888-574-5370, by e-mail,

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