Execution: Coming to Your Hospital

Posted on February 14, 2011


Every few years a certain one-word concept becomes the trendy topic to focus on in the business community. This trend is often adopted as the most important thing in the world to positively affect results.  Fortune 500 companies drive the trend and it filters down to other industries and smaller companies, much like the fashion houses exhibit new fashions on the runway which eventually filter down to stores that you and I shop at. Entire consulting practices are founded on the trend du jour; clients ask for companies who have expertise in the trend and companies hire professionals who have resumes steeped in said trend.  At the time, it is believed this trend is the key to market differentiation and long-term success.

Some recent business buzzwords from the past twenty years that were the it topic at one time or another:  quality, value, efficiency, design.

It could be argued we are still in the “design” era, where even stodgy Fortune 500 firms are intensely focused in creativity as a way to unlock appeal to customers.  Maybe this is why Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind has such success and how the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree was touted at the ‘new MBA’ in the business world.

However, I believe the new buzzword in business, and healthcare, is execution.

Execution has been popping up more and more.  I recently listened to a Franklin Covey seminar on CD on the topic, which was a bag stuffer at a healthcare conference I attended.  Execution is a topic I see explored by thought-leading consultants like McKinsey.  Business guru Ram Charan also has written a book on the topic.

Execution is unsung yet important because it is the “real work” that makes a good idea become reality. Many people can brainstorm ways to improve healthcare, but how many people in your organization can take those ideas and implement them in your organization for success?  The researchers say very few.

Franklin Covey says execution is deceptively important because it is work that never feels urgent—and urgent work is where most of us spend 90% of our day.

Late in November last year, the Wall Street Journal ran an article written by Bill Gates titled “Africa Needs Aid, Not Flawed Theories.”  In it, Gates reacted to a critical piece by Matt Ridley and wrote “He [Matt Ridley] also seems to think that innovation involves simply coming up with a new idea, when in fact the execution of the idea is critical.”

Gates’ quote is so important. Innovation will get more press itself as the world economy evolves and people question whether the U.S. still has the resources to remain the world leader in innovation and ideas. Yet, Gates believes that behind innovation (arguably the most coveted business culture and attribute) lies execution.

As we all approach our work with a new year’s optimism, let us take a look at the balance between how much time we spend planning (strategy) and how much we spend on implementation (execution).  We need both for success, and in the right proportions.  Good luck finding that balance.