Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book: Execution by Bossidy

I have been asked to do a book review to a group of executives of a major bank in Kuala Lumpur in October. It is "EXECUTION - The Discipline of Getting Things Done" principally by Larry Bossidy who was the CEO of AlliedSignal at the time when it merged with Honeywell (and went on to assume the latter's name). There are two other co-authors, one of whom is Ram Charan who used to teach at the Harvard Business School.

This book is actually a little dated. But I suppose it is still useful in terms of concepts. Its basic messages are still valid  - (a) the gaps between executive promises and deliveries can be oceans apart and (b) CEOs have to personally drive execution. From Bossidy, it is first-hand lesson after lesson to demonstrate his points. And from Charan, the illustrations were drawn basically from his consulting work and devoid of actual characters cited in his examples, they sounded quite plastic or make-believe.

For students who are looking for "models" to apply the authors' concepts of things (like those one gets from Michael Porter or one of those management gurus from Harvard), they are likely to be disappointed. Nevertheless, one gets to see how a top-notch CEO manages a huge cutting-edge enterprise - as crusader of a great corporate culture, as firm believer in quantitative tools, and as relentless pursuer of efficient processes in everything the enterprise does, right from meetings to people, strategy and operations issues.

Honeywell is still a formidable Fortune 500 company today with sales about USD50 billion and an employee strength of some 130,000 all over the world.

In short, you may have the best strategy and all the resources in the world, unless you know how to mobilise to execute, you are likely to end up going nowhere. Many CEOs of top Fortune 500 companies have to suffer ignominious exit because of one thing: Failure in Execution. 

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