Without execution, vision is just a big idea

Leaders are often referred to as the visionaries in a business, and many of us who fall into that category following a career of growing and evolving an organization recognize that vision separates a leader from a manager.

Vision is that end goal, what the leader is reaching for, why he or she pumps so many hours, resources and a lifetime of hard work into a business.

But there’s more to leading a successful enterprise than having vision. What some leaders lack—and what differentiates effective leaders from the pack—is the ability to execute.

Without execution, there’s no momentum.

The best plans are pointless unless they include direct action steps to reach the end goal. The best people in an organization will fail if not given direction and a path toward success. The best operation will falter if there is no process for “getting it done,” whatever that “it” is at your business.

Lack of execution causes disappointment and a weak culture. It causes good people to leave companies. Execution is the engine that propels successful organizations. Without it, no business or star employee or leader, for that matter, is going anywhere.

Execution is a discipline. Execution requires systematically asking the tough questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? It requires some self-reflection and analysis of the business operations. Execution is not about tactics; it’s about understanding every angle of a situation so a process can be created that instills accountability and assures quality.

Execution falls on the business owner. A leader simply cannot outsource or delegate execution, no matter the size of the business. As we said, execution is not tactics; it’s more strategic. Execution is born from the owner and the direction must come from the top. Execution involves running people, strategy and operations. No one else can do this job.

Execution is a core value. Execution must be ingrained in the way a company operates. Execution is “getting it done,” and that momentum and direction starts at the top and seeps down and saturates the culture. Execution closes gaps; the practice raises standards.

So the simple question about execution is: How do you do it? The answer begins by breaking down execution into three steps—addressing Who, Where and How. Who in your organization will execute the process or strategy? Where do you want to go as an organization — what’s the strategy? How will you get there; what operational processes are necessary to achieve the goal?

Execution takes practice. We’ll mess it up before we get it right. Poor execution will cost us talent and a competitive edge. But by tuning in to our business process — how we get things done—and really digging in to analyze whether execution is effective in our organizations, we can address weaknesses and improve.

After all, life and business are about constant improvement — reflection, analysis, strategy and the hard work of getting it done.

Umberto P. Fedeli is president and CEO at The Fedeli Group