Plan your work and work your plan: 3 tips toward effective execution
By Adam C. Wright, Ph.D.

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Leading a team and getting the job done is easier said than done. In today's market-driven economy where everything is about the bottom line, executives cannot afford to waste resources on personnel who do not know how to execute.

INDUSTRY PULSE

Which tip is the most effective for execution?
  • 1. Knowing your end game
  • 2. Knowing key players involved
  • 3. Establishing a timeline of actionable steps

Knowing how to effectively execute your work can mean the difference between landing that promotion you've always dreamed about or finding your way to the end of the unemployment line. Perhaps you are familiar with this adage: "Plan your work and work your plan." Albeit seemingly simple, this strategy is commonly overlooked.

"I need people on my team that can get the job done," explains Jane Weempe, CEO of Dallas-based ElleCo Construction.

People are an organization's most valuable commodity, and as Jim Collins, author of "How the Mighty Have Fallen," explains: "Dramatic leaps in performance came when an executive team of exceptional leaders coalesced and made a series of outstanding, supremely well-executed decisions."

Three decisions you can make as a leader to ensure effective execution in your work are to know your end game, know the players involved in the project, and establish a clear timeline of actionable steps to accomplish your goal.

1. Know Your End Game

What's the goal or the outcome of your work? Have this vision and communicate it to your team so they know where they are headed at the end of the project. Keep communicating this vision and be sure it's in front of your team every chance you get.

One of the great marks of a leader is an ability to cast the vision and help the team know what success looks like once the project is completed. No clear vision or target to hit is a recipe for disaster. Nothing can seem more frustrating at times than when following someone who cannot articulate where they are taking you.

2. Know Key Players Involved

"Knowing" has two elements. First, you must know who the necessary people are in the project. Secondly, you need to know their specific roles. Leadership is a process that involves people. You need people to achieve the goal. Knowing the "who" element will help you define their roles, which will alleviate potential confusion and lost man-hours as the project progresses.

Consider outlining on paper the people involved in the project and what their roles will be in your overall plan of action. We are wired to work, but with a purpose. As a leader, part of your job is to clearly outline for your team their role in the project. This task keeps all accountable and contributing toward your shared vision.

3. Establish a Timeline of Actionable Steps

The "tyranny of the urgent" never ceases to amaze me. We all have the idea that when we get to work we will hit the ground running on those important steps necessary to complete the task at hand. However, the morning quickly becomes midmorning, and near the end of the afternoon you sigh with despair realizing that you let the entire day pass without ever working on that important project requiring attention.

We all have good intentions when we start our work day, but nothing is more important than knowing what's most important. Establishing a clear timeline of prioritized actionable steps to execute can often mean the difference of success or failure.

'Tis true: "Inch by inch, it's a cinch." Breaking down the work in manageable, actionable steps will help you develop a roadmap for success and keep you on track toward accomplishing that overarching vision necessary to keep your organization moving forward.

Taking time to incorporate these three tips in your leadership strategy will help you achieve effective execution regardless the size of task at hand. As noted management guru Peter Drucker aptly put it: "Intelligence, imaginations and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results."

Adam Wright, Ph.D., serves as the vice president and dean of the Cook School of Leadership at Dallas Baptist University. You can follow Dr. Wright on Twitter @Adam_C_Wright and contact him at adam@dbu.edu.