The Four E's - Fundamentals for Successful Execution and Development
Updated: Jan 20
Published on October 11, 2016
When looking at success in business it's not hard to map the steps that achieved the result after-the-fact. A positive outcome may have and likely did require multiple attempts, but there is one constant; Organizations learn and adjust accordingly from each failed attempt, right? As I emerge from my dream-like state, the reality is that most companies at times epitomize the definition of insanity. We see it all the time. A previous strategy with a different name or the failure to look at what worked or didn't from previously efforts. While the phenomenon of not looking back is troubling, the hardest dilemma is why there is a lack of planning on the front end when embarking on a new strategy. The Four E's Model is a process map I developed for coaching small business owners on how to get things done and improve almost any aspect of their business. The path to effective execution is the same whether pursuing superior customer experience, high level talent recruitment and retention, higher sales and profitability, new distribution channels or any other well-established strategic goal.
The primary step in any initiative is to establish a clear vision of what success looks like and have the ability to describe how to get there. The first E is to ENGAGE those whose job it is to pursue the objective. Goals are too often established in silos and don't include a review of historical data or ascertaining input from those who will be called on to contribute or collaborate. Here is where looking at past execution results is critical. What worked well? What didn't? What should we not carry over? What achieved good transferable results? Unfortunately, bleeding edge initiatives rarely have the advantage of historical intelligence outside competitive failures, hence the high risk. ENGAGEMENT WITHOUT EXECUTION gets everyone off on the wrong foot. The second E is where we EDUCATE on the skills, competencies, tactics and actions required to accomplish the goal. For example, in a growing tech industry this could require acquiring new talent with profound knowledge to spearhead software development. It could also be as simple as role playing new product scripts for those with direct interaction with the customer or client. All too often organizations will assume the team has the skill-set needed or that departments know how to collaborate, only to discover that wasn't reality. The challenge is, if we EDUCATE WITHOUT ENGAGEMENT, the bigger "why" is not understood along with what we are trying to achieve. The planning and delivery of the training needed to achieve any goal; strategy, tactic, initiative or objective is a highly predictive lead measure to its attainment. This is also where ongoing coaching lives.
The third E requires us to EMPOWER all participants who will have execution responsibly. Here, the education and training is tested and the most effective leadership activity is observation and support. Of course this is when any final corrections in behavior can be coached. Autonomy is a privilege and represents a vote of confidence from the organization that should only be granted when competence and confidence are exhibited. It only goes to reason, EMPOWERMENT WITHOUT EDUCATION is a disaster waiting to happen. This can manifest itself in a host of undesirable, unintended consequences. The words "do whatever it takes" should not be uttered in a culture that has not properly prepared for autonomous decision-making through training. Failures in quality can and do occur when people don't have an experiential reference to what excellence looks like. This reminds me of the question, would you fly on an airline with a 90% safety rating or with a pilot that only has 100 hours in the cockpit?
When we have all the geese flying in formation then it is time for the forth and last E, EXECUTE. Now that everyone in the company responsible for delivering the result knows the goal, has the tools and skills required and has the support of the company behind them, the only thing left is making it happen. Any failure at this late stage is generally a result of EXECUTION WITHOUT EMPOWERMENT. This can be the result of misjudgment in the organization's readiness to go to market or that leadership has given the directive but is not confident in the team’s ability to call plays on the field. This generally is the symptom I see when a step is missing from the above or the leadership is not willing to secede control. Either way, this is an effectiveness killer that reverts back to top down decision-making.
When these behaviors are part of an execution plan or engrained in standard operational procedures, everyone who is called upon to collaborate in a new direction is vested in the initiative. Additionally, the Four E's can be used as an ongoing leadership tool to match the appropriate developmental needs of your staff. You don’t want to take the Picassos of the world back to art school, but this ensures you aren’t overlooking opportunities to coach and support everyone who is vital in executing strategies to achieve goals.