Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Seven Leadership Actions to Execution Excellence in 2008

What are your plans for 2008 that will make this a better year for project execution? Are you writing them down, making plans and taking actions to move them from your wish list to a realistic and achievable goal list? Without a clear set of written improvement objectives and concrete plans to make them a reality, I would not expect 2008 to be much different than 2007. Written plans will make the difference between the status quo for 2008 and improvements that will be noticed. To get your goals started I have created a list of seven sure-fire actions that WILL improve your project execution in 2008.

Leading your Team To Execution Excellence in 2008
Producing a notable positive shift in project execution for 2008 will take work; hard work and at times it will be painful. If this is your 2008 objective it will take an honest, thorough assessment of what has not been working well; I suggest you suit up in your best armor and send your ego on a vacation for a while. Going through a thorough assessment of how things are really working and implementing obvious improvements will require you to hone your leadership characteristics and put them into action. Note the diagram below that identifies the different attributes for managing vs. leading a team. Displaying a higher degree of the leadership attributes will provide the essential guidance to developing execution excellence for your team.

Are you planning for simple incremental changes in 2008 or are you ready to make changes that will be easily noticed due to the improvements being on a scale that can't be missed? Ready to break some rules and operate in a mode that is uncharacteristic of the old? Ready to ask the tough questions? Ready to learn from your team? Ready for taking some risk? What is holding you back? Understand the answers to these questions and begin the journey from managing team execution to leading team execution.

For 2008 will you be managing the team or leading the team down a path to new levels of productivity? One path logs an acceptable rating while the other is a path that logs a striking score.

Seven Actions that will bring Execution Excellence in 2008
Below are seven activities that will bring your team visible differences in their product development execution. Do these well; really do these well and your team can't help but show a visible, higher level of execution efficiency. Lead your team to a noticeably higher level of execution excellence.

1) Listen - Spend some time with each member of the new product development team (design as well as non-design) and listen to what they believe is impacting their ability to perform better. Act on what you learn.

2) Break some Rules - Question, challenge, and stir things up. Being comfortable has no place in an organization that is going to display project execution leadership. Why are you doing things the way your are? The status quo will have no place in an organization that is living and breathing excellence in project execution.

3) Map your Process - Involve the team, learn how your doing things and map them out. Identify changes to the process; break some rules. Think outside the box; brainstorm with the team. Involve everyone on the NPD team, not just design. The final deliverable out of this activity must be a process that everyone believes will bring a new level of project success to the organization.

4) Don't over commit - Commit only after doing your homework. Be creative, be aggressive, keep your vision broad and commit only when you have a means to get there. Due diligence on plans and schedules will reinforce predictability for your project. A misplaced commitment will never benefit the team or the business; it will only erode confidence in the teams ability to execute.

5) Manage Scope - You must have something in place to manage the inevitable changes to project scope. Scope change is a reality that will exist for every project. Setting your team apart from the norm will be a process that manages the scope decisions well. That process must include changes from within the team as well as changes from the customer. Keep the Feature Creep Wildfire in control.

6) Learn what you don't know - "Those that know, know they know. Those that don't know, don't know they don't know." You must always assume there is something to be learned about roadblocks to your project execution and to find them; you need to listen to your team to uncover them. Keep a keen eye out for the unknown. It is always there, waiting to disrupt your plan. More about Finding what you don't know.

7) And Finally Seek Outside Input - This is essential to prevent a stale, incestuous view of your organizations best practices. We are too close to our situation to see the possible errors in our ways. An outsider can be someone from a different organization within your company, another company or a consultant. Most importantly it must be someone that your team believes has no loyalty to anyone in management and/or the business operation itself. The team must view this individual as unbiased and non-threatening, to be able to accurately assess the situation.

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