What is Flawless Execution?
Put simply, Flawless Execution is about getting things done! The important and life-changing things. The things you dream about regularly, that seem impossible to deliver. The idea of flawless execution was born into the world of fighter pilots, where the consequences of losing are severe and the operational speed is incredibly fast.
So, let's define Flawless Execution one word at a time!
Flawless: In a word, flawless means perfect. Arguably, there is no such thing. However, flawless execution is not about perfection! Instead, it is about the endless pursuit of the achievement of our goals! It is an obsession with failure, as both something to be avoided AND something to treasure for the learning that it provides. In a world full of complex systems, there can never be any guarantee of success. Yet, our failures can teach us how to succeed!
Execution: Execution means getting things done! But, what things? The right things, of course! The right things are those things we plan to do. We are not talking about processes here. We don’t plan to do processes. Instead, we plan to develop processes. From its inception, every organization begins as a plan. It grows and succeeds as the result of planning. At best, processes are only the product of planning. And, planning is the first step in Flawless Execution.
There a three commonly misused words that we will define in order to fully understand what Flawless Execution is trying to achieve. Those terms are simple, complicated and complex.
Simple: Simple can be defined as something with few or only a single part or process. For our purposes, simple is something easily comprehensible. Simple tasks are those things that can be easily taught and mastered by anyone, with little investment in time or pre-requisite training.
Complicated: Complicated can be defined as something with many parts or processes that requires significant technical knowledge to operate or manage. Complicated tasks and processes require specialised knowledge derived from considerable training and education.
Complex: Complex is vastly different from simple and complicated. Anything that is simple or complicated can, with sufficient technical skill, be mastered and produce predictable results. However, something that is complex means that its complexity arises from the collective interaction of simple, complicated or even other complex parts. The distinguishing mark of complexity is its unpredictability. Complexity is everywhere! It exists in all living things and their interaction with other living things.
Now that we understand the differences between simple, complicated and complex, there are two other related terms we must clearly understand. Those are process and system.
Process: We define a process as a set of specific steps that converts a specific input into a specific output. Therefore, processes may be simple or complicated. But, they cannot be complex because the output of a complex process is not predictable or specific. It is for that purpose that we use methods like Six Sigma.
System: A system can be described as a complex process. A human being is a system. A company is a system. As is government or an economy. The global economy is a system of systems, a supra-system if you like, that is continually changing in unpredictable ways. Systems are interdependent of other larger and smaller systems. Everything is part of a system. Everything is affected by other systems.
So, if everything is part of a complex system that is unpredictable, then how is it that we can speak of predictable processes existing within unpredictable systems? Well, that is why we must define our next term, organisation.
Organisation: Organisation is a broad term that originates from living systems. Its root comes from living systems and implies coordination and cooperation among other living things. In Flawless Execution, we use the term organisation in two slightly different senses. First, we use it as a blanket designation for any business or company, government entity, association, and so forth. In that sense, an organisation is an association of individuals for some coordinated purpose. Second, we use organisation more specifically to describe the degree to which those individuals coordinate well. In that sense, then, organisation applies to the quality and value of the processes utilized within an organization. Processes are developed within organisations to bind the problems and challenges it faces into more manageable and controllable tasks. Therefore, processes can be viewed as a rigorous attempt to shield an organisation’s necessary functions from the dangers of complexity. Even then, an organisation’s processes must still change over time in order to evolve under the assault of constant change.
There is just one final term to define, one that is commonly used in organisations today. It’s a powerful concept, one that has dominated the business world for decades. It is Continuous Improvement.
Continuous Improvement: Continuous improvement is a commonly used phrase to describe programs such as Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean, etc. However, Continuous Improvement can only logically refer to the improvement of processes. It cannot refer to the improvement of organisations in a holistic way because organizations are complex systems. Systems either survive, thrive, and perform highly or they stagnate, decline, and possibly die. Therefore, organizations do not continuously improve. Instead, they improve their performance by adaptation and evolution within the larger system. Think of it this way, no process can be more than 100% effective, but an organization’s growth and success are unlimited!
A Deep Dive into Flawless Execution
Flawless Execution is structured in a pyramid of seven tiers with the Flawless Execution Cycle occupying the central and most significant of the seven tiers – it's the glue that holds the whole process and the concepts together! The seven tiers are, from top to bottom:
High Definition Destination (HDD): An organization’s HDD is a clear and simple description of the future in high definition, that the organisation desires to create. It begins by establishing organisational situational awareness, a process of assembling trends, threats, and opportunities about the larger system in which the organization functions. For companies, this external system can generally be considered its “market.” It also includes a detailed development of 5 key areas that provide the “high definition” quality of the HDD.
Together, these descriptors create a high-definition future that will serve as a clear and compelling objective for the entire organisation. Flawless Execution is iterative in nature, as it allows for and encourages the development of successive HDD’s and strategies at each level of an organisation while maintaining alignment throughout!
|Flawless Execution® is a holistic system of simple, interdependent processes that enables individuals, teams, and organizations to accelerate their performance in the rapidly changing, challenging, and complex world.|
Strategy: Flawless Execution’s approach to developing strategy focuses upon complex systems analysis and theory. Through facilitation, a collaborative planning team assembles a detailed map of the internal and external systems to identify leverage points that become the strategy to achieve the HDD. These leverage points form the basis of formal strategic plans that are the detailed components of the strategy. They may also form a line-of-sight alignment of goals from the top to the bottom of the organisation.
Leader’s Intent: The use of proprietary facilitation techniques and cognitively diverse planning teams, at both the strategic and operational/tactical levels, communicates the intent of an organisation’s leader to the rest of the organisation, rapidly and effectively!
The Flawless Execution Cycle: The four-part Flawless Execution Cycle is a powerful methodology that finds its origin in the zero-tolerance-for-failure world of military aviation. This cycle is applied at every level of the organization, whether strategic or tactical. It has four steps:
Plan: Flawless Execution utilizes a proprietary six-step planning model.
- State the Mission Objective
- Identify Threats
- Identify Resources
- Evaluate Lessons Learned
- Develop a Course of Action with individual accountability
- Plan for Contingencies
Brief: Flawless Execution utilizes a formal brief that prepares the team to execute more effectively.
- Brief the Scenario
- Restate Mission Objective
- Identify Top Threats and Resources
- Execution – The Final Plan
- Flexibility – Contingencies
Execute: Flawless Execution provides expertise in several methods to improve execution
- Accountable Plans
- Execution Rhythm℠ and X-Gap℠ Meetings
- Identify and eliminate Task Saturation℠
- 6 Fundamental Keys to Successful Execution – L.O.C.K.E.D. on Teams℠ model
- Crosschecks and Task Shedding
- Mutual Support – The Wingman Concept
- Situational Awareness
Debrief: One of the most powerful tools in the Flawless Execution Cycle is the continuous improvement and learning achieved through proper debriefing. The four R's Debriefing model is essential to developing a culture of learning and performance acceleration in organisations.
- Re-affirm the Objective
- Result – What are our current results
- Reason – What's the reason for this result
- Response – What will I do tomorrow?
Standards: Standards provide the basic guidance, or doctrine, within an organisation that guides execution. Standards may describe the proper use of processes or behaviours, but they are not processes in themselves. Standards provide the minimum guidance for individuals and teams within the organization in order for them to execute properly. Standards also serve as a ‘rallying point’ when unexpected events occur.
Training: Training must align with the HDD. Training that does not necessarily or directly align with the future picture is education. Training must first explain what must be learned. Then the learning must be demonstrated. Finally, the learner must perform the learning. This is what Afterburner calls Demo-Do training. All of the practical skills required to master Flawless Execution follow a “Demo-Do” method.
People: At its heart, every organization is composed of people. People are the agents of execution. Selecting, developing, and retaining, these most valuable resources is essential to success. When people possess a common problem-solving and operating framework such as Flawless Execution, they accelerate the organization to higher performance.
Implementing and improving on the seven layers of Flawless Execution in your business will take your results from mediocre and underwhelming, to high-performing and long-lasting!
Flawless Execution References –
ASQ. (n.d.). What is total quality management (TQM)? ASQ. https://asq.org/quality-resources/total-quality-management
White, S. (2018). What is six sigma? Streamlining quality management. CIO. https://www.cio.com/article/3237692/six-sigma-quality-management methodology.html#:~:text=Six%20Sigma%20is%20a%20quality,little%20to%20no%20variance%20throughout.
McLaughlin, E. (n.d.) Lean Management. Tech Target. https://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/lean-management