Goals, plans, intent and intellect simply aren’t enough – ‘nailing it shut’ is the hard, final yards of any activity. Organisational shifts are built in part on Insight, Vision, Strategy, and Leadership. But equally importantly, maybe more so, they are built on execution. That rare skill, the ability to see a commitment through to completion like your life depends on it, is surely one of the most prized qualities in a world shaped by uncertainty and constant change.
So, what are the attributes of these people who you can always rely on to “Nail It Shut”? How can we understand and emulate them? What tools, weapons and demeanour do those who successfully ‘Nail It Shut’ carry?
They are Questioning:
They ask ‘why’ repeatedly to ensure they are attacking the root cause problem and not just the symptom, avoiding disappointment for all.
They apply Measurement:
Once they know they are addressing the right issue they define the value they are aiming to produce. They agree what completion looks like and track progress with stakeholders.
They ‘Sweat the Small Stuff’:
The devil is in the detail. They leave nothing unsaid or undocumented because they know the details matter.
They are Succinct:
While they understand and execute the detail, they know that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
They are Resilient:
They know that ‘everyone has a plan until they get a punch in the mouth’ (M Tyson), or for the less pugilistic “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”. They do not give or accept excuses, they crack on, revise the plan and execute.
They are Relentless:
They own the problem and execute while others procrastinate or abdicate. They know the difference between abdication and delegation and that barriers are designed to limit ‘the other people’.
They are Focussed:
They recognise that while the 80/20 rule teaches us that 80% of the result can be delivered with just 20% of the effort, this is often a delusion. In most business situations the reality is that the final 20% is where the true business value lies and can be the difference the between success and failure. There are no medals for the hundred meter sprinter who leads at 80 meters and then wanders aimlessly off the track.
They are Persistent:
They have a list and the job stays on it. They understand the cost of elapsed time, not least that the goals might start to shift. They keep chasing completion/resolution until it is ‘nailed’.
Calvin Coolidge (a famously quiet President) probably had the last word on the topic as early as a century ago, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
There is nothing new here except realisation – a dawning realisation that everything is happening much more quickly as customer and market expectations evolve and organisations see ‘time to market’ cycles slashed – so there just isn’t time to waste with ‘almost done’.
It is worth reading Larry Fast’s article on accountability and the art of execution. Don’t let the ‘manufacturing’ label in the article fool you, this is about working life and the route to success. Read here
Larry Fast is a manufacturing veteran of 35 years and the author of The 12 Principles of Manufacturing Excellence: A Leader’s Guide to Achieving and Sustaining Excellence.
Maybe “Nailing it shut” is just another term for “accountability”