Entrepreneurs are usually pretty good about articulating their goals. (Especially after the second margarita… not so much after that FOURTH margarita!) The struggle comes when it’s time to make the tough decisions that are needed to keep their business tasks in Alignment with those goals. Then even after Aligning your daily business activities you must now consistently Execute them. (Go here for my definition of Alignment and Execution.)
Here’s a couple of Alignment and Execution business examples:
Alignment #1: Your goal is to have your company be a vehicle for financial freedom for you and your family. But your company is losing money and/or your profit margins are too thin to allow you to reach that goal. Over the years the company’s expenses have become bloated or your costs are way out of alignment and are threatening the survival of your company. You’ve accepted the fact that simply adding more sales won’t solve this problem. You realize that the solution to get things in line is to make radical cuts to your expenses…now!
Execution #1: In some cases this new Alignment might mean cutting back on sales growth to focus on realignment of expenses. However, the actual Execution of this new Alignment can be gut-wrenching for an owner who has always focused on sales and marketing. In addition, this new Alignment can mean making the hard, often painful Execution decisions about which costs to cut. They can include easy decisions like canceling convention trips or eliminating expensive perks for executives and managers. But they may also include more difficult cuts like revising pay structures, reducing health benefits and possibly even “Business Executions” as in eliminating people’s positions.
Cut to the chase time? Execution means looking people in the eye and saying, “We have to change the way we’ve been doing things!” And actually doing this even if it means eliminating their jobs.
Alignment #2: You have a key, long-term employee who is hard working, willing to work long hours until the job is done and in whom you’ve invested a considerable amount of time and money training. However, your new Alignment recognizes that this worker’s attitude and behavior continue to be an intolerable disruption to the rest of the staff even after you’ve worked with him to help him change it.
Execution #2: Actually “biting the bullet” and discharging the employee- probably long before you’re emotionally ready to do so! But Execution means you step up to this unpleasant (even wrenching) task before the employee causes irrevocable damage to your customers and to the rest of your staff. Yes, it probably means there will be a temporary disruption in the work flow and that you’ll end up having to perform tasks you’d rather not have to do.
But in the long run this painful “Execution” will be the best thing for the company. After all, this continuously unacceptable behavior consumes too much of your people’s emotional energy and is a distraction from your company’s long-term goals. Even worse, when you tolerate these offensive actions long term it goes against the values upon which you’ve built your company.
Perhaps legendary basketball coach John Wooden captured the essence of Alignment and Execution best when he said, “Activity, to produce real results, must be organized and executed meticulously. Otherwise, it’s no different from children running around the playground at recess.”