So where are those copious notes you made at last year's Remodeling Show? Or the neat sales-to-production-handoff form you got from your remodeler buddy that you wanted to adapt and begin using? And then you bought a book on how to put the lead carpenter system into place because you were determined that 2004 would be the year you accomplished this transition. But where is it now? Have you opened it yet? We won't even go into the now-out-of-date software you've purchased that hasn't yet been installed.

I used to think that giving birth to an idea, a system, a way to make things better was the highest achievement a business-person could make. Now I know much better.

It is the successful execution of that idea that takes considerably longer, requires constant monitoring until it's a habit, and isn't quite as zingy. That is the true achievement.

Mark Robert Halper

Lost in Space

As I work with remodeling companies, I find a lack of execution — of implementation. The owner decrees that from now on everyone will turn in their time cards in a certain way and at a certain time. But each field person responds in their own way until the decree has vanished into thin air. One good idea after another goes up in smoke.

So I was intrigued by the book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. Business Week called it a “how-to book for the can-do boss,” which was a compelling recommendation, because remodelers are can-do above all else. The authors define execution as the missing link between “what a company's leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organizations to deliver it.”

Bossidy and Charan very quickly clear up the myth that leadership involves thinking rather than doing. They designate execution as the leader's most important work. To get ideas into implementation, the business leader must combine clear communication, accountability for results, and constant follow-through to ensure plans are on track. Most important, the doers in an organization need to be rewarded and promoted.

They note: “The failure to follow through is widespread in business, and a major cause of poor execution. How many meetings have you attended where people left without firm conclusions about who would do what and when. Everybody may have agreed the idea was good, but since nobody was named accountable for results, it doesn't get done.”

Consistency Matters Should you buy this book? Yes, if you are a dedicated business book reader. The authors present lots of information and thought-provoking ideas. But they focus on large companies and the book is not very user-friendly.

Here are five simple recommendations to help with execution. Consistency here will develop a discipline of execution in your company over the next six to 12 months.

  • Start with small bites. It is better to succeed at something small than to fail at something big. You can eat an elephant one bite at a time.
  • Assign accountability for follow-through to a person or a team. Pick people who are enthusiastic and would be positively affected by the outcome.
  • Always designate who will do what by when and follow up.
  • Reward those who get things done. Get rid of those who don't. (I could say “execute” them, but I won't.)
  • Start now.

—Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5620; linda@remodelers;