Here is a common flawed premise of success: that in the stew of success, the goal is the most important ingredient — that you win or lose based on the “merits” or “worthiness” of that goal. How wrong this is, and often it creates needless casualties!

The best goal in the world can’t survive poor execution. Goals never fail. Only implementation does!

Unless you execute properly and remain focused until completion, the goal—and that means ANY goal—is irrelevant. My observation is that success is 10 percent vision, what some might call “goal clarity,” and 90 percent execution.

Consider the example of two high-performing athletes, Tiger Woods and Serena Williams.

When they were both very young, Woods had visions of winning major golf tournaments and Williams had grand visions of winning major tennis tournaments. But is the vision of the goal what made them great performers, or was it their ability to execute? How many other aspiring athletes had great visions but did not succeed?

Consider the following questions:

     Have you ever missed a golden opportunity because an idea never got off the ground?

     Have you ever been frustrated by your inability to follow through and execute plans, even after committing to do so?

     Would it be worth a focused effort to permanently fix the underlying causes of inaction?

Execution Is the Key!

The difference between those who have goals and plans but don’t succeed and those who do succeed is simple. Those who succeed are able to execute well and follow through until the completion of their goals.

What is good execution? Good execution is all about making good decisions and making things happen. It’s about reacting well to unpleasant and unexpected events. It’s about building capabilities into your life and business—the capability to be efficient and effective in respect to those factors that are critical to your success. It’s about FedEx making sure that the package really does arrive the next day.

How does one get good at execution? You must focus time and resources on the “core activities” necessary for achievement. There are always more tasks to do than there is time or resources available to do them. Go for the “high-impact” activities.

You must hold yourself accountable for deadlines and adjust tasks accordingly. Slipping deadlines are a symptom of poor execution and a lack of discipline. Set realistic deadlines, monitor your progress and make timely decisions to meet your deadlines.

Surround yourself with people, experience and expertise. Well-trained, experienced people know how to get the job done effectively. Inexperienced or untrained people simply will not be as effective, though with training they can become so over time. People who experiment and learn become experienced executors.

Realize that everything counts! Consciously pay attention to the small details of the core activities. After all, it was a simple and relatively inexpensive O-ring design flaw that destroyed the space shuttle. The small details are what make the difference between a mediocre product and an outstanding product, a marginal customer experience and a great customer experience.

This may seem to be in conflict with the point about meeting deadlines. However, it is precisely your awareness of the details that makes it easier to meet deadlines. Lack of attention to detail can cause the unexpected to bite you on the backside and slip the schedule.

Success is a journey, a maze of obstacles, options and opportunities along with failure, ambiguity and rework. The success you enjoy depends upon many things, but mostly it depends on you and your ability to execute until the goal is achieved.

Remember, it’s not where you start that matters. It’s all about where you finish.

Call to Action

First, write out a single compelling goal that you simply must achieve. Next, answer the following questions:

1)   Who is responsible for achieving this goal?

2)   What are the consequences of inaction?

3)   What can and must be done to ensure that the goal is accomplished?

4)   What deadlines should I put in place to create a sense of urgency?

5)   What steps can I take to maintain enthusiasm and momentum?

6)   Can a support team be an asset to me as it pertains to this goal? If so, who should be on the team?

Armed with your answers to these planning questions, execute!