The Formula for Success

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The Formula for Success

By Danielle Romano, Convenience Store News - 10/11/2015

LAS VEGAS — Ever hear of the quote, “Why is the fish the last to discover water?”

That’s what Chris McChesney, global execution practice leader at FranklinCovey Co., asked attendees at the first general session of the 2015 NACS Show, taking place at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

He then followed up with two questions that he said plague every leader. The first is, What do leaders struggle with more: strategy or execution? The second is, What are leaders educated in?

The responses weren’t that surprising to McChesney, author of “The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Import Goals,” as he explained how leaders are educated in achieving execution and not so much in the strategy it takes to get there. To execute something successfully, he said the focus needs to be on two main areas. One being the stroke of the pen, and the other being behavior change — the most challenging to leaders and retailers today.

“Driving strategy and changing human behavior is the wall leaders hit,” he said. “Anytime a majority of the people act a way a majority of the time, it’s not the people, it’s the leader.”

In a FranklinCovey poll, team members found that leaders responded to 12 root reasons why execution was so difficult, including cross-functional collaboration and training processes. But McChesney explained to the audience there is one real reason leaders hit that wall, and it is the confliction between the whirlwind (which is urgent and the everyday job) and goals (which is important and creates new activities).

Quickly polling the audience on how slowly or quickly they knew of or experienced a strategy dying, McChesney commented, “Whether it was a slow suffocation or it happened quickly, the strategy died because leaders do not know how to execute something new in the middle of a whirlwind.”

This is where his 4 Disciplines of Execution come into play. Shadowing the rules of flying a plane (lift, thrust, weight and drag), McChesney listed the 4 Disciplines — focus, leverage, engagement and accountability — in order to advise convenience store industry leaders and retailers on how to find success in execution.

Focus on the wildly important, he stressed. “Narrow on the number of goals in the whirlwind to get to the concept that has the fewest executional goals,” McChesney advised. To do this, he said you must avoid the two focus traps: saying yes to good ideas and turning everything into the whirlwind. “There will always be more good ideas than there is a capacity to execute.”

To effectively execute and succeed, McChesney gave the audience four main criteria:

  • Ask yourself: What are the fewest number of battles to take part in to win the war? 
  • Choose one wildly important goal to execute.
  • Veto ideas and actions, but don’t dictate.
  • A wildly important goal must have a gap (from X to Y by when).

McChesney then tunneled down into the remaining Disciplines. He advised leaders to act on lead measures, while remembering there is a big difference between what we know and the data that supports it. Next, keep a compelling scoreboard that is simple, highly visible to each team player, and has the right lead measures. Lastly, create a cadence of accountability by asking yourself: What is the most important thing I can do to impact the lead measure?

“There is no formula on how to execute on everything,” McChesney emphasized as the session closed. “But necessity is the mother of invention. … The most satisfying thing we’ve learned is what it means to an individual when they’re winning.”