Execution: A Systems Approach to Effectiveness

There’s been a lot of recent publicity promoting Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, a fine new book by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Several reviewers have noted that the book’s focus on effectiveness implicitly critiques the "big idea" mania of dot-com cloud coo-coo-land. I agree. But there’s more: this book nicely reminds all executives, in companies big or small, that the prime function of the leader is to design and operate systems that keep the business moving forward, realizing goals in a deliberate and planned manner. The key to this approach lies in integrating the various tactics. Bossidy and Charan show how effective executives tie together the functions of hiring the right people, creating the right strategy, and then involving oneself sufficiently in the details of the company to ensure that the operating processes (how people carry out strategy) work properly.

The book’s holistic approach to effective management calls to mind the "systems approach" at the core of Peter Senge’s classic business book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. One key to learning organizations, Senge argues, lies in understanding how cause and effect relate to one another in the larger system. Moreover, Bossidy and Charan’s emphasis that chief executives train a cold eye on reality calls to mind Joan Magretta’s What Management Is. On an individual level, Execution’s ideas nicely complement the ideas of efficiency guru David Allen in his well-received book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Here Allen shows how entrepreneurs and leaders can boost their efficiency through a simple but powerful system of making the right choices about which actions to take. And if I were to recommend one more great text in this genre, look no further than Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, which pithily foreshadows the work of such current stars as Stephen Covey and others. There’s little about management today that Drucker hasn’t influenced in one form or another, and this little gem of a book shows why.

Posted by tom at June 14, 2002 03:05 PM
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