The Essence of Execution
By Donald Sull and
To understand the five qualities that define
effective workplace promises - pledges to satisfy concerns of
stakeholders within and outside an organization.
This article includes a one-page preview that quickly summarizes
the key ideas and provides an overview of how the concepts work in
practice along with suggestions for further reading.
Critical initiatives stall for a variety of reasons - employee
disengagement, a lack of coordination between functions, complex
organizational structures that obscure accountability, and so on.
To overcome such obstacles, managers must fundamentally rethink how
work gets done. Most of the challenges stem from broken or poorly
crafted commitments. That's because every company is, at its heart,
a dynamic network of promises made between employees and
colleagues, customers, outsourcing partners, or other stakeholders.
Executives can overcome many problems in the short term and foster
productive, reliable workforces for the long term by practicing
what the authors call "promise-based management", which involves
cultivating and coordinating commitments in a systematic way. Good
promises share five qualities: They are public, active, voluntary,
explicit, and mission based.
To develop and execute an effective promise, the "provider" and
the "customer" in the deal should go through three phases of
conversation. The first, achieving a meeting of minds, entails
exploring the fundamental questions of coordinated effort: What do
you mean? Do you understand what I mean? What should I do? What
will you do? Who else should we talk to? In the next phase, making
it happen, the provider executes on the promise. In the final
phase, closing the loop, the customer publicly declares that the
provider has either delivered the goods or failed to do so.
Leaders must weave and manage their webs of promises with great
care - encouraging iterative conversation and making sure
commitments are fulfilled reliably. If they do, they can enhance
coordination and cooperation among colleagues, build the
organizational agility required to seize new business
opportunities, and tap employees' entrepreneurial energies.
To understand the five qualities that define effective workplace
promises - pledges to satisfy concerns of stakeholders within and
outside an organization.
Customer satisfaction, Management communication, Managerial
behavior, Organizational design, Organizational structure,
Stakeholders, Strategy implementation.
The full article is available for download from
Harvard Business Review Online