Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Authors
Books
Features
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Execution

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Execution

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Execution

Buy now from Random House

See more online stores - Execution

Execution

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook
  • Audiobook

The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Written by Larry BossidyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Larry Bossidy, Ram CharanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ram Charan and Charles BurckAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Charles Burck



eBook

List Price: $16.99

eBook

On Sale: November 10, 2009
Pages: 304 | ISBN: 978-0-307-59146-3
Published by : Crown Business Crown Archetype

Audio Editions

$34.95

Published by: Random House Audio

Read by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan and John Bedford Lloyd
On Sale: December 24, 2002
ISBN: 978-0-7393-0275-0
More Info...

Read by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan and John Bedford Lloyd
On Sale: June 11, 2002
ISBN: 978-0-7393-0156-2
More Info...
Listen to an excerpt
Visit RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO to learn more about audiobooks.


Execution Cover

Bookmark,
Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Execution
  • Email this page - Execution
  • Print this page - Execution
ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The book that shows how to get the job done and deliver results . . . whether you’re running an entire company or in your first management job

Larry Bossidy is one of the world’s most acclaimed CEOs, a man with few peers who has a track record for delivering results. Ram Charan is a legendary advisor to senior executives and boards of directors, a man with unparalleled insight into why some companies are successful and others are not. Together they’ve pooled their knowledge and experience into the one book on how to close the gap between results promised and results delivered that people in business need today.

After a long, stellar career with General Electric, Larry Bossidy transformed AlliedSignal into one of the world’s most admired companies and was named CEO of the year in 1998 by Chief Executive magazine. Accomplishments such as 31 consecutive quarters of earnings-per-share growth of 13 percent or more didn’t just happen; they resulted from the consistent practice of the discipline of execution: understanding how to link together people, strategy, and operations, the three core processes of every business.

Leading these processes is the real job of running a business, not formulating a “vision” and leaving the work of carrying it out to others. Bossidy and Charan show the importance of being deeply and passionately engaged in an organization and why robust dialogues about people, strategy, and operations result in a business based on intellectual honesty and realism.

The leader’s most important job—selecting and appraising people—is one that should never be delegated. As a CEO, Larry Bossidy personally makes the calls to check references for key hires. Why? With the right people in the right jobs, there’s a leadership gene pool that conceives and selects strategies that can be executed. People then work together to create a strategy building block by building block, a strategy in sync with the realities of the marketplace, the economy, and the competition. Once the right people and strategy are in place, they are then linked to an operating process that results in the implementation of specific programs and actions and that assigns accountability. This kind of effective operating process goes way beyond the typical budget exercise that looks into a rearview mirror to set its goals. It puts reality behind the numbers and is where the rubber meets the road.

Putting an execution culture in place is hard, but losing it is easy. In July 2001 Larry Bossidy was asked by the board of directors of Honeywell International (it had merged with AlliedSignal) to return and get the company back on track. He’s been putting the ideas he writes about in Execution to work in real time.

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Gap Nobody Knows

The CEO was sitting in his office late one evening, looking tired and drained. He was trying to explain to a visitor why his great strategic initiative had failed, but he couldn't figure out what had gone wrong.

"I'm so frustrated," he said. "I got the group together a year ago, people from all the divisions. We had two off-site meetings, did benchmarking, got the metrics. McKinsey helped us. Everybody agreed with the plan. It was a good one, and the market was good.

"This was the brightest team in the industry, no question about it. I assigned stretch goals. I empowered them-gave them the freedom to do what they needed to do. Everybody knew what had to be done. Our incentive system is clear, so they knew what the rewards and penalties would be. We worked together with high energy. How could we fail?

"Yet the year has come to an end, and we missed the goals. They let me down; they didn't deliver the results. I have lowered earnings estimates four times in the past nine months. We've lost our credibility with the Street. I have probably lost my credibility with the board. I don't know what to do, and I don't know where the bottom is. Frankly, I think the board may fire me."

Several weeks later the board did indeed fire him.

This story-it's a true one-is the archetypal story of the gap that nobody knows. It's symptomatic of the biggest problem facing corporations today. We hear lots of similar stories when we talk to business leaders. They're played out almost daily in the press, when it reports on companies that should be succeeding but aren't: Aetna, AT&T, British Airways, Campbell Soup, Compaq, Gillette, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Procter & Gamble, Xerox, and many others.

These are good companies. They have smart CEOs and talented people, they have inspiring visions, and they bring in the best consultants. Yet they, and many other companies as well, regularly fail to produce promised results. Then when they announce the shortfall, investors dump their stocks and enormous market value is obliterated. Managers and employees are demoralized. And increasingly, boards are forced to dump the CEOs.

The leaders of all the companies listed above were highly regarded when they were appointed-they seemed to have all of the right qualifications. But they all lost their jobs because they didn't deliver what they said they would. In the year 2000 alone, forty CEOs of the top two hundred companies on Fortune's 500 list were removed-not retired but fired or made to resign. When 20 percent of the most powerful business leaders in America lose their jobs, something is clearly wrong. This trend continued in 2001 and will clearly be in evidence in 2002.

In such cases it's not just the CEO who suffers-so do the employees, alliance partners, shareholders, and even customers. And it's not just the CEO whose shortcomings create the problem, though of course he or she is ultimately responsible.

What is the problem? Is it a rough business environment? Yes. Whether the economy is strong or weak, competition is fiercer than ever. Change comes faster than ever. Investors-who were passive when today's senior leaders started their careers-have turned unforgiving. But this factor by itself doesn't explain the near-epidemic of shortfalls and failures. Despite this, there are companies that deliver on their commitments year in and year out-companies such as GE, Wal-Mart, Emerson, Southwest Airlines, and Colgate-Palmolive.

When companies fail to deliver on their promises, the most frequent explanation is that the CEO's strategy was wrong. But the strategy by itself is not often the cause. Strategies most often fail because they aren't executed well. Things that are supposed to happen don't happen. Either the organizations aren't capable of making them happen, or the leaders of the business misjudge the challenges their companies face in the business environment, or both.

Former Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer had an ambitious strategy, and he almost pulled it off. Before any of his competitors, he saw that the so-called Wintel architecture-the combination of the Windows operating system and Intel's constant innovation-would serve for everything from a palm-held to a linked network of servers capable of competing with mainframes.

Mirroring IBM, Pfeiffer broadened his base to serve all the computing needs of enterprise customers. He bought Tandem, the high-speed, failsafe mainframe manufacturer, and Digital Equipment Company (DEC) to give Compaq serious entry into the services segment. Pfeiffer moved at breakneck speed on his bold strategic vision, transforming Compaq from a failing niche builder of high-priced office PCs to the second-biggest computer company (after IBM) in just six years. By 1998 it was poised to dominate the industry.

But the strategy looks like a pipe dream today. Integrating the acquisitions and delivering on the promises required better execution than Compaq was able to achieve. More fundamentally, neither Pfeiffer nor his successor, Michael Capellas, pursued the kind of execution necessary to make money as PCs became more and more of a commodity business.

Michael Dell understood that kind of execution. His direct-sales and build-to-order approach was not just a marketing tactic to bypass retailers; it was the core of his business strategy. Execution is the reason Dell passed Compaq in market value years ago, despite Compaq's vastly greater size and scope, and it's the reason Dell passed Compaq in 2001 as the world's biggest maker of PCs. As of November 2001, Dell was shooting to double its market share, from approximately 20 to 40 percent.

Any company that sells direct has certain advantages: control over pricing, no retail markups, and a sales force dedicated to its own products. But that wasn't Dell's secret. After all, Gateway sells direct too, but lately it has fared no better than Dell's other rivals. Dell's insight was that building to order, executing superbly, and keeping a sharp eye on costs would give him an unbeatable advantage.

In conventional batch production manufacturing, a business sets its production volume based on the demand that is forecast for the coming months. If it has outsourced component manufacturing and just does the assembling, like a computer maker, it tells the component suppliers what volumes to expect and negotiates the prices. If sales fall short of projections, everybody gets stuck with unsold inventory. If sales are higher, they scramble inefficiently to meet demand.

Building to order, by contrast, means producing a unit after the customer's order is transmitted to the factory. Component suppliers, who also build to order, get the information when Dell's customers place their orders. They deliver the parts to Dell, which immediately places them into production, and shippers cart away the machines within hours after they're boxed. The system squeezes time out of the entire cycle from order to delivery-Dell can deliver a computer within a week or less of the time an order is placed. This system minimizes inventories at both ends of the pipeline, incoming and outgoing. It also allows Dell customers to get the latest technological improvements more often than rivals' customers.

Build-to-order improves inventory turnover, which increases asset velocity, one of the most underappreciated components of making money. Velocity is the ratio of sales dollars to net assets deployed in the business,

which in the most common definition includes plant and equipment, inventories, and accounts receivable minus accounts payable. Higher velocity improves productivity and reduces working capital. It also improves cash flow, the life blood of any business, and can help improve margins as well as revenue and market share.

Inventory turns are especially important for makers of PCs, since inventories account for the largest portion of their net assets. When sales fall below forecast, companies with traditional batch manufacturing, like Compaq, are stuck with unsold inventory. What's more, computer components such as microprocessors are particularly prone to obsolescence because performance advances so rapidly, often accompanied by falling prices. When these PC makers have to write off the excess or obsolete inventory, their profit margins can shrink to the vanishing point.

Dell turns its inventory over eighty times a year, compared with about ten to twenty times for its rivals, and its working capital is negative. As a result, it generates an enormous amount of cash. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002, with revenues of $8.1 billion and an operating margin of 7.4 percent, Dell had cash flow of $1 billion from operations. Its return on invested capital for Fiscal 2001 was 355 percent-an incredible rate for a company with its sales volume. Its high velocity also allows it to give customers the latest technological improvements ahead of other makers, and to take advantage of falling component costs-either to improve margins or to cut prices.

These are the reasons Dell's strategy became deadly for its competitors once PC growth slowed. Dell capitalized on their misery and cut prices in a bid for market share, increasing the distance between it and the rest of the industry. Because of its high velocity, Dell could show high return on capital and positive cash flow, even with margins depressed. Its competition couldn't.

The system works only because Dell executes meticulously at every stage. The electronic linkages among suppliers and manufacturing create a seamless extended enterprise. A manufacturing executive we know who worked at Dell for a time calls its system "the best manufacturing operation I've ever seen."

As this book goes to press, the merger between Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, proposed in mid-2001, is still up in the air. No matter: Alone or in combination, nothing they do will make them competitive with Dell unless they come up with an equal or better build-to-order production model.

The chronic underperformers we've mentioned so far have lots of company. Countless others are less than they could be because of poor execution. The gap between promises and results is widespread and clear. The gap nobody knows is the gap between what a company's leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organization to achieve it.

Everybody talks about change. In recent years, a small industry of changemeisters has preached revolution, reinvention, quantum change, breakthrough thinking, audacious goals, learning organizations, and the like. We're not necessarily debunking this stuff. But unless you translate big thoughts into concrete steps for action, they're pointless. Without execution, the breakthrough thinking breaks down, learning adds no value, people don't meet their stretch goals, and the revolution stops dead in its tracks. What you get is change is for the worse, because failure drains the energy from your organization. Repeated failure destroys it.

These days we're hearing a more practical phrase on the lips of business leaders. They're talking about taking their organizations to the "next level," which brings the rhetoric down to earth. GE CEO Jeff Immelt, for example, is asking his people how they can use technology to differentiate their way to the next level and command better prices, margins, and revenue growth.

This is an execution approach to change. It's reality-based-people can envision and discuss specific things they need to do. It recognizes that meaningful change comes only with execution.

No company can deliver on its commitments or adapt well to change unless all leaders practice the discipline of execution at all levels. Execution has to be a part of a company's strategy and its goals. It is the missing link between aspirations and results. As such, it is a major-indeed, the major-job of a business leader. If you don't know how to execute, the whole of your effort as a leader will always be less than the sum of its parts.
Ram Charan|Author Q&A

About Ram Charan

Ram Charan - Execution

Photo © John Abbott

RAM CHARAN is the coauthor of the bestseller Execution and the author of What the CEO Wants You to Know, Know-How, and many other books. Dr. Charan grew up in India, where he first learned the art and science of business in his family’s shoe shop. After earning his M.B.A. and D.B.A. from Harvard Business School, he taught for a number of years at both Harvard and Northwestern. He now advises the leaders and boards of companies around the world, including GE, DuPont, Nokia, Verizon, and the Thomson Corporation. What people around the world proclaim are Ram’s practicality and the value he provides in helping them solve business problems. For more information on Ram Charan and his work, visit www.ram-charan.com.

Author Q&A

A conversation with Larry Bossidy, co-author (with Ram Charan) of
EXECUTION: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Why did you and Ram Charan decide to write a book about execution?

We were struck by the fact that there are hundreds of books devoted to strategic planning, CEO profiles, and customer service, but very little on turning strategy into reality. No one takes a class on execution in business school, and many leaders have no idea that it’s a discipline in its own right, not just a matter of tactics.

Look at how many CEOs have been asked to resign in the last couple of years. If you understand execution, it becomes very clear what went wrong at companies like Lucent, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Campbell, Kodak, and AT&T. These were good companies, with smart CEOs and talented people, yet they failed to produce the promised results. They failed to execute.

Ram and I believe that EXECUTION can help leaders get things done more effectively at every level, in every size company.

You write that some companies have an “execution culture” – what does that kind of culture look like?

At a company like General Electric, EDS, Dell, or Wal-Mart, people are held accountable for what they promise to deliver. They know that their bosses and colleagues are going to ask tough questions and follow up. They don’t suffer through endless meetings where nothing gets resolved and the hard problems are swept under the rug. Everyone tries hard to be realistic – especially about people, strategic plans, and budgets.

When you have an execution culture, people also learn that excuses don’t count for much. You say that the economy took a downturn, or your competitors did something completely unexpected? Well, why didn’t you see it coming sooner and make adjustments? No one can solve every problem, but if you tolerate excuses, the people who work for you will get into the habit of making excuses, instead of taking responsibility and looking for creative solutions.

Leaders at these companies are passionately engaged in the details, not just a sweeping vision of the future. They consistently ask the right questions: Are our products positioned optimally in the marketplace? Do we have the right strategy for this economy? Do we have the right people in the right jobs? Do we have enough financial and human resources to carry out our plans, and if not, what are we going to do about it?

If you don’t hear those kinds of questions, you don’t have an execution culture.

But if leaders are getting their hands dirty with details, isn’t that micromanaging?

There’s a very clear line between being committed to execution and micromanaging. Let's say I go to a business review or a planning session with one of my unit leaders. We'll debate the strategic plan for three or four hours, and then it's over. But I'll write that person a letter on what we agreed upon in that strategic plan. And then I'll follow up on that letter to make sure those things got executed.
On the other hand, I'm not setting pricing for that business, or trying to determine its next marketing plan. I am trying to make sure that the key decisions we make about running the business – whether they're in personnel, strategy, or operations – get done. I don't think people at Honeywell would say I micromanage, but they would say I'm involved in everything.

How do you establish an execution culture at an organization that doesn’t have one?

It’s not easy – you can't just announce, “We're going to have an execution discipline from now on.” You have to begin to evaluate people by what they do, as opposed to what they say. You have to differentiate between those who get results and those who don’t, and you have to make sure your stars are recognized and well-compensated.

You can’t accomplish this overnight. But you can send a clear signal early on that the company is putting a premium on execution. This cascades down through the organization, and people will start to focus on concrete results, as opposed to fuzzy visions for the future. Once that mind-set begins to form, it's a terrific asset.

What about people who don’t embrace the execution mind-set?

Ram and I believe that most people really want to improve their performance, and are open to being coached. The problem is that too many managers are afraid to give honest performance reviews and constructive criticism. They do people a great disservice by not confronting their shortcomings.

Let’s say I'm appraising you. We talk about your successes and good points, but I also bring up several key skill sets that you need to work on. And I explain that I have an obligation to help you develop, because a year from now, if we have the same list of things to improve, I'll be critical of you, but you have reason to be critical of me, too. Together, we have to make sure that you make progress. That's what I do with all my direct reports, and if this process goes on all over the company, the workforce does get better.

Of course, there will sometimes be people who resist coaching and consistently fail to improve, and then you need the courage to ask them to leave, because over time they’ll hurt the rest of the organization.

Why do you think it has taken so long for execution to be seen as a critical management issue?

In the past, business leaders could get away with poor execution by pleading for patience. But now everything moves much faster, and Wall Street measures success in quarters, not years. A company can lose a key market before it knows what hit it. If your competitors are executing better than you, they’re beating you in the here and now, and the financial markets won’t wait to find out how your brilliant five-year plan is going to play out. So you can’t just delegate execution to someone else – you have to make it a priority every day.

Praise

Praise

“If you want to be a CEO—or if you are a CEO and want to keep your job—read Execution and put its principles to work.”
—Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell Computer Corp.

“Good practical insight and advice on managing for results at firms of any size. Execution is key, and this book clearly explains what it means and how it brings together the critical elements of any organization—its people, strategies, and operations.” —L. R. Raymond, chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil

“The best-thought-out plans in the world aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if you can’t pull them off. And that’s what this book is all about. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done is well written and gives sound, practical advice about how to make things happen. It is well worth the reading.” —Ralph S. Larsen, chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

“Larry Bossidy recognizes how execution in a business defines the true greatness of a company. He captures a lifetime of building winning formulas and puts them in a simple and practical context for executives at any level. Read it!” —Ivan Seidenberg, president and co–chief executive officer, Verizon

“For those managers who have struggled to make it happen, fix a problem, get it done—or otherwise transform winning strategies into genuine results—here’s the missing medicine from two who know from long experience what works and what doesn’t. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan offer a compelling leadership prescription, and it comes down to realism, discipline, and above all, great execution.”
—Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan define the true meaning of leadership from an implementation point of view. Larry is the expert on productivity in the world of business, and this book demonstrates how leadership is the key to achieving ongoing financial success.” —Richard Schroeder, cofounder of Six Sigma Academy

  • Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
  • June 04, 2002
  • Business & Economics - Management
  • Crown Business
  • $27.50
  • 9780609610572

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: