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Execution is Not Easy! If it was, everyone would be doing it…even the US Air Force

How can really bright people screw up to the tune of $1 billion?

Our colleagues in the US Air Force were successful in just that.

They selected a software vendor in 2006 to “configure, deploy and conduct training and change management activities” related to a $628 million contract for an off-the-shelf enterprise-wide software system.  Randall Stross, a Silicon Valley author and professor at San Jose State University, captures the details in Sunday’s New York Times.  He quotes an Air Force executive,  laying the groundwork for this debacle by 2010, “We’ve never tried to change all the processes, tools and languages of all 250,000 people in our business at once, and that’s essentially what we are about to do.”

Mr. Stross attributes the failure to endless meetings, complex bureaucratic requirements and the constant need to fight wars.  My assessment of the situation is much simpler.

My experience working with leadership teams for over 30 years tells me that the team’s Vision and planning process was flawed.

This is what happens when the collective attitudes and beliefs are not addressed as part of the vision process.  This is what happens when the vision cannot be articulated or is not embraced by every member of the team.  These are the obstacles to almost every planning process.  When the planning process is flawed, no amount of expertise in execution can bring an initiative to a productive close.

If you would like to align your team around a vision for a $1 billion initiative or something smaller in scope for 2013, get our free report at www.teamalignmentstrategies.com

Here’s the full article in the Sunday business section of the  New York Times: http://nyti.ms/YOI6CF  It’s worth a read.

Making Meetings Meaningful

Do you want to free up hours and hours for productive, strategic, proactive work activities?

Studies show that for every 20-minutes we spend planning and preparing for meetings, we save 60-minutes in rework down the line.

Why don’t we consistently spend this critical 20-minutes?

So many people spend their days reacting to the intensity of their calendars. By rushing from meeting to meeting we tend to show up in meetings with very little clarity. Do we even know the purpose of every meeting scheduled on our calendar this week?

Without clarity about the purpose of a meeting, participants have little clarity about how decisions will evolve and resources will be allocated as a result of a meeting.

Worse, we have little understanding of our individual role in the context of this meeting.

To make meetings meaningful (and thereby much more productive) take 20-minutes prior to each meeting to get clear on these important issues:

1. What is the purpose of this meeting? Is it a standing committee, a team meeting or an ad hoc meeting for one purpose? Will decisions actually be made in this meeting? Will resources be allocated as a result of this meeting? Do I need additional data in order to be prepared to discuss issues from a strategic perspective.

2. What is my objective for this meeting? How might I move my related priorities forward during this meeting?

3. What is my role in this meeting? Am I the sole decision-maker? Am I there to add context or be briefed? Am I a member of a team that will drive solutions as a result of this meeting?

4. Do we have an official scribe for this meeting? Do we have a track record of documenting action items in a meaningful way that produce effective follow-up and real results?

5. Have I received an agenda for this meeting? Do the agenda items make sense, given the purpose of the meeting?

    With only 20-minutes of preparation time, your meetings can be exponentially more effective. More importantly, meetings can be a key structure for building a corporate culture of transparency, alignment and accountability.

    If you aren’t strategic and proactive in preparing for meetings, you guarantee frustration and wasted resources in your very next meeting.

    Your colleagues who have least amount of transparency about themselves will be disruptive by dominating the meeting and will drive the few, off-strategy outcomes.

    It’s your choice.