How Do You Drive Execution?

Execution is first about leadership. Clearly defining, prioritizing, and communicating goals and the rewards for meeting them. Being the first one in and the last out. Grooming strong performers for the next step in their careers while making sure anyone struggling gets the help and guidance they need. But equally important to leadership is a rigorous process of execution. Together, they enable you to meet schedule and cost commitments while continually improving performance from one project to the next.

An effective process of execution starts with the disciplined application of proven Project Management (PM) techniques, and there's a mature methodology underpinning that. The Project Management Institute publishes "The Project Management Body of Knowledge", or PMBOK, which details generally accepted project management information and practices that have been refined over decades. It's my bible, and I insist that everyone reporting to me read it and understand it -- and I test them on it.

To implement best practices in PM, I set-up a Project Office (PO) that serves two main purposes. First, it regularly (usually weekly) reviews all medium to large projects and reports compliance-to-plan to all stakeholders. It also serves as a Center of Excellence, critiquing and helping to improve project managers' plans before project start. It also helps managers remediate their plans mid-course if they begin to veer off track. When necessary, it provides the information needed by senior leaders to dynamically reallocate resources to bring troubled projects back on track. Finally, the PO prepares an after-action analysis at the end of each project for inclusion in a continually revised guide to learnings and best practices.

To run the PO, I appoint a full time director skilled in PM. This is a significant investment, but is has never failed to pay for itself many times over. To assist the director, I rotate a group of three engineers (and when possible individuals from other functions as well) to serve on a part-time basis for a period of three months. This has the dual benefit of providing the bandwidth necessary to monitor the many projects in the PO as well as to distribute hands-on PM experience throughout the department and the business.

I lead by doing -- personally attending every Project Office review session to gain an immersion in the details and to maintain regular communications with associates at all levels throughout the business. These practices have been invaluable to me in meeting the challenges of leading a globally dispersed organization at work on numerous concurrent projects.

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