Everyone has an idea… However, those who turn ideas into strategy and then execution are those that succeed on purpose.
Nolan Bushnell*, founder of Atari, Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theatre, and Brain Rush says, “Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.”
Let’s face it, execution is hard! You can count on variables, difficulties, and distractions throughout the journey from idea to strategy to execution that will thwart progress, or give you permission to quit. The journey may also lead you away from your original idea that you are so passionately (or emotionally) connected to, and if you subconsciously hold emotion over logic because it was your idea, you may miss the mark altogether by holding on too tight.
By leading through a process with some simple constructs, you can adapt and pivot when needed, and minimize potential drift and frustration. Remember, execution is the ultimate scoreboard, not the brilliant idea!
Think of this now as a project. As a project manager in this context, I compile a team (it takes a village) with various knowledge to account for the various angles. I’m also looking for slight overlap (but not duplication) in mental skill sets to facilitate healthy conflict, delegation, and expertise within strategy, tactics, and details.
For example, I am an expert in strategy that supports the idea and tactics that support the strategy. My operations manager is an expert in tactics and getting into the details that support the tactics. These skill sets complement each other, therefore, we are able to move from ideas to strategies to execution because we are aware of our skill sets and how to leverage them together.
Now, let’s set some ground rules:
First, plan on giving each stage of the project its due time and consideration; don’t rush it, be methodical, but don’t drag feet either… As the project manager, mediate, challenge, and listen. Set the meeting’s objective each time, focusing on forward motion and avoid drift. Be purposeful.
Second, layer in a few questions as guidance along the way. My most important question is always asking, “Does this simplify the process?” Additionally, expect blindspots, i.e. “What are we not thinking of?” Furthermore, “Who does this effect and does this better their experience (employee, customer, and stakeholder)?” Be careful to not overcomplicate in the pursuit of simplicity…paradoxically, that can happen (and will be a frustration).
Third, as a team, we agree that there are “no bad ideas,” even though we know some definitely are… As a leader, it is critical to be a voracious listener. I know that I don’t know all the angles, so one of those bad ideas may spark curiosity, opportunity, or refinement that betters the outcome. This simple rule also breaks emotional ties to an original idea that may need refinement.
Finally, our mantra is simple, “we execute!” This is our compass that guides the team through the unforeseen variables, potential for drift, inevitable distractions, and likely frustrations.
“Everyone has an idea, some actually put strategy to it, we execute!” We do this through project management. We have a dynamic team with clear objectives and basic ground rules. The process is what holds everyone accountable; therefore, you can lead people, manage process – and that my friends is the secret sauce!
This is our construct for success so that we don’t just live in the idea stage, rather, we execute on purpose!
Go Forth And Succeed!
*Walter Isaacson’s book “Steve Jobs” contains this tidbit on Bushnell: In 1976, Steve Jobs went to Nolan to get him to put in some money in exchange for a minor equity stake in Apple. Nolan remarked, “Steve asked me if I would put $50,000 in and he would give me a third of the company. I was so smart, I said no. It’s kind of fun to think about that, when I’m not crying.”