During one writing session using my tablet keyboard, I found myself without the letter “X” and the letter “Z”. (I’ve used the keyboard so much over the past three plus years it has just worn out!) Now you wouldn’t think those two letters would be hard to avoid. After all, they aren’t the letter “e”, the most commonly used letter in the English language. Write an article without using “X” and “Z”? How hard should it be to address the line between success and failure in business without these two letters? (Keep an eye out for that article, because I did write it!)

As I worked on the article, I found myself searching endlessly for words to substitute for execution and organization. Because underlying every success story is the ability to develop the capability of the organization to execute its strategies and tactics.

Without these elements – execution (the “X” factor) and organizational competency (the “Z” factor) – businesses are left searching for substitutes, just as I was exhausting my mental thesaurus seeking words to represent the essence of these two critical elements of success. Execution is a function of organizational competence. Organizational competence is based in the composition of the skills, talents, experience, and abilities of the people that make up the organization AND the infrastructure (systems, policies, procedures, and resources) that are acquired, deployed, and aligned toward positive financial outcomes and other desirable strategic objectives and performance measured established.

In order to identify new ways to achieve strategic objectives, an organization must have a comprehensive picture of current capabilities across the entire organization. Recognition of its capabilities and acceptance of the challenges allows the organization to identify a set of possible strategies and move toward probable alternatives. This knowledge, in turn, can propel the organization to higher performance.

When the organization identifies a possible strategy it isn’t currently capable of pursuing, it must decide whether or not to acquire the organizational competence necessary to enable execution and keep that alternative as an option. The decision to build organizational competence, whether changes in infrastructure or people, requires an accurate assessment of what is missing from the organization’s capabilities.

Organizational competence requires an objective evaluation of the business team, individually and as a whole. It also requires specific, measurable deliverables which are clearly communicated. These deliverables are set for individuals, groups, teams, and the total organization. They are the stepping stones of what is required to ultimately achieve the strategic objectives. Without clearly defined targets which serve to align the organizations activities, the ability to execute is less than optimal. The organization is constrained by its lack of direction and performance requirements. Without expectations of performance followed by measurement and feedback on actual results, the organization has no means to steer itself along its stated strategic path.

Woven into the fabric of organizational competence and execution is the ability of the leadership team and managers to define success at the individual performer level, to measure performance against objectives, and to take appropriate action to reward success or remedy the shortfall. This means that leaders and managers must be capable individually and as a group of setting and enforcing standards of performance. Without the ability to manage and lead, the organization’s technical competence is sacrificed to inefficiency and ineffectiveness of resource utilization. The organization is drained of success by lack of action to improve performance.

Another aspect of organizational performance and results is accountability. Every level of the organization, from the board room to the front desk, from the CEO to the custodian, must be accountable for fulfilling the role the organization has tasked them to play. Each role is a necessary element to the efficient functioning of the organization. Each role needs to be identified in the process of achieving success. The individual who understands how his/her role supports the organization’s mission has a greater stake in seeing that mission succeed.

How do you get your organization on track to succeed? It begins by assessing objectively what has worked – your successes, and what hasn’t worked – your misses, and by learning the capabilities of your current team which have been ignored, constrained, or underutilized. It requires an assessment of where you have deployed your best people and whether those roles are the best “fit” for them and for the organization. It may also mean your organization needs to seek new team members. You won’t know that, however, until you have developed the following accurately and objectively:

  • The skills, abilities, education, experience, and aptitudes of your current team members:
  • Your strategic objectives
  • Your possible strategies
  • The competencies required to execute those possible strategies
  • The timeline for pursuing the various strategies and objectives (your team may have time to acquire new skills)
  • Whether the new competencies are intermittent or permanent needs – can they be supplied by “hired guns” on an as-needed basis

Where does your organization stand today? On a scale of 1 to 10 what is your eXecution factor? What is your organiZational competency rating versus what you need to succeed? Are you looking for direction (strategic objectives)? Or do you have the “right” objectives and just can’t seem to travel down the road?

Strategic objectives are meaningless if you cannot select the necessary strategies to pursue them. The process of setting objectives is an intellectual exercise when you are constrained by your lack of ability to pursue the best strategies. Ultimately your bottom-line success is a function of two factors – organizational competence and execution. Where does your organization stand?


Original Copyright ©2005 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

Revised Copyright ©2015 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.




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