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Audience and Lecturer

Driving Execution



Who is your Chief Execution Officer (CXO)?


Who's driving execution at your company?  Another way to ask this question is; “Who is your Chief Execution Officer (CXO)?"  One would think the answer to this question should be fairly simple. However the sad reality for most organizations is that no one is driving execution throughout the company. The problem stems from the fact that most CEOs and leadership teams don’t have the skills required, the processes in place or the understanding of the effort necessary to methodically integrate the organization’s initiatives with the daily activities of its employees. 

" Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success;

   leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall." 

~  Stephen Covey



Stephen Covey attributes this failure to the fact that business schools don’t teach strategy execution. Business schools teach all aspects of strategic planning, but there are no courses about how to execute strategy. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a MBA program that has one course on execution or execution management. Perhaps this is why 70% to 90% of all organizations fail to fully implement their strategic plans.

Most of what we do in our businesses around strategic planning and strategic execution is usually counter-productive to good execution management. We usually have a small group of senior executives that go off site and create the strategic plan for the year. There’s a lot of great thinking that goes on and typically the team is fired up and can’t wait to share it with the rest of the company. Then we hold a company-wide meeting and tell everyone what the plan is. Employees are sitting there listening politely and might even be clapping their hands at the appropriate parts. And when the presentation is over many of them are thinking this sounds really good and they hope they can accomplish it. They wish them the best of luck. Then they go back to their jobs.


Unfortunately, leadership has confused communication with engagement. The employees have not been actively engaged in this process. At best, they’ve just been interested spectators. The strategic plan goes on the shelf and other than some sales goals and financial metrics it rarely gets looked at again until the end of the year when we start this whole process over again.

The most foundational capability any organization can have is knowing how to plan and execute while overcoming the daily surprises that always seem to get in the way. Of the two, execution is by far the hardest. It is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success. In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great his research team concludes that strategy doesn’t separate the good from the great…execution does!

To address this problem, we need to instill on our current and future leaders that execution and execution management are the responsibilities of the Chief Executive Officer and his or her leadership team. They are responsible for the processes, methodologies and systems for managing execution down to an individual level. Because without a system that’s been specifically designed to integrate the activities that move the company forward with the daily activities of its employees, you’ll be playing Russian roulette with the results.

This is where a Chief Execution Officer comes into play.  A CXO ensures the organization’s strategic plan gets translated into action.  He/she helps the organization successfully achieve not only their strategic plan but the day-to-day activities of the employees as well.  The CXO’s mission is to build world-class execution capabilities throughout the entire organization.

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