Editor’s note: We’re honored to feature this guest post from Andy Walter. Andy has led the Commercial Services & Delivery Organization for Procter & Gamble’s Global Business Services (GBS), where he was responsible for IT & Shared Services for all Global Business Units and Markets around the world. His team was accountable for developing cutting-edge digital capabilities for Procter & Gamble to win “where it matters most.”
Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success and the cause of most of the disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes.
– Larry Bossidy / Ram Charan
In the race to digitize companies and forgo disruption, the execution of getting the capabilities (software / solutions), new business models, M&A/Restructuring in place will define the winners and losers. In their 2002 book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (arguably one of the most influential works on my career), Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan lay out a framework on Execution. Their focus is on all levels of leadership. The core concepts are critical to integrate with the new world of Digital Transformation, Agile / DevOps, and the Imperative of how to execute in today’s business environment.
Those that discount the importance of execution and instead chase technologies like a bumblebee flying from flower to flower will fail, quickly lose the confidence of their organization / business, or worse, create operational issues to the core of running the business (hence accelerating the disruption they so desperately are trying to avoid). I’ve seen it happen time-and-time again at the best of companies!
Bossidy and Charan lay out their Building Blocks of Execution and focus primarily targeted to the senior leadership of companies. Those building blocks being:
- Dominant Critical Tasks – Even when complex, focus here.
- Right people in the right place.
- Managing a social system – Decision Making, Collaboration, etc.
- Managing Core Processes.
- Feedback and Follow-Through.
- Reward the Doers – Performance and Behaviors.
Looking at these building blocks in the context of driving digital transformation then lays out what needs to be true now to drive Delivery & Execution Excellence:
- Leadership / Talent – Right people in the right place
- Capability Allocation & Portfolio – Core Processes
- Technology & Business Expertise – Core Processes,Right People, Partners, Solutions
- Project & Solution Delivery – Critical Tasks
- Culture – Social System, Feedback & Follow-through, Reward the Doers
Let’s take a transparent look at these Five Imperatives with steps you should be taking now.
Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don’t expect it from cheap people.
– Warren Buffett
1. Leadership / Talent – Right people in the right place
As with all transformations, the right leadership and talent is the first and primary imperative. Lacking this makes the potential of success slim to none.
The lesson: inspirational leadership is essential in our knowledge economy, but inspirational leadership is not “feel good” leadership. It is not about charisma. It’s about creating the conditions that motivate peak performers to seize opportunities and attack problems. It can and must be carefully cultivated through training and development, through personal coaching and example. Inspirational leadership is more likely to enable transformational change to deliver sustainable growth.
– A.G. Lafley
While leading the P&G Project Delivery organization (over 900 multi-functional Project & Program Leaders across every region and facet of P&G’s business), when faced with a major transformation, mission critical project, or no miss business target, the first step was always getting the right leadership and talent in place (with a high sense of urgency).
It started at my direct leadership team (accountability, transparency, and agility) with a top Finance Leader (Angela Schunk), Purchases Leader (Mark Farrell), Portfolio Leader (Willie Alvarado), Technology Transformation (Corrado Azzarita), and HR Leader (Maurits Wesseling). We sat together (physically or virtually) like a startup company making fast decisions, communicating openly, and ensuring our leaders were positioned for success.
We then put top players leading each region – they owned their business results, approach, and connection to the local leadership. Every one of these leaders would be a CIO at any other Fortune 500 company! Carlos Amesquita, Alfredo Colas, Nicolas Louit, Eduardo Leon, Michele Hughes, Sanjay Singh, Susan Ong, Olimpia Nitti — Accountable for all aspects of IT, Project Delivery, & Shared Services for, on average, a $15-20 Billion business. I’d put any one of them into a Fortune 500 CIO position and know they would flourish… as a matter in fact, I’d work for anyone of them without a miss.
We had over $500 Million in projects across M&A, Corporate Restructure, and new Digital Capabilities to accelerate top and bottom lines. For the big transformations, I immediately went across the organization to pull the top players in and set them free! The largest Supply Chain Digitization in the history of P&G, Marie DiGiorgio led it. Selling Duracell to Berkshire-Hathaway and needing to setup an entire company solution set from nothing (as Berkshire did not have any systems to transition to), called on Alan Falkingham. Largest Beauty business divestiture ever to Coty, must be Aron Olegnowicz. Transform Package & Artwork across P&G, John Myers. Drive the digital marketing & eBusiness area, Tim Butler. Regional digital break-throughs, Guniz Louit, Ana Mantecas, Bharathi Viswanathan, Vasanthi Chalasani, and others! Repeatedly, put a top leader in place, give them the room to operate, and be there to support them when needed. Interesting, again, any one of these players could also be a CIO/CTO/GBS Leader at a Fortune 500 company (and many of them have or will be)!
Steps to Take Now
- Know your people across the organization and down 3 levels from the top. I find that many leaders rely on bringing in their “entourage” they’ve worked with in the past (regardless of lack of capability or diversity) versus spending the quality time understand the talent they have in place.
- Lean-In and move fast on putting the right players in place. Nothing distracts the organization more than having the wrong leadership. We moved folks out of current roles and into the transformation imperatives in weeks or days, not months!
- Give them room to operate and drive accountability, transparency, and clear results we will achieve together. My entire team saw all results: global, regional, and by transformation imperative. We were in it together.
But knowing your people is not enough. They need to know you. It is absolutely critical during trying times that you as a leader are accessible, that you project a sense of confidence tempered by concern, that you share as much undistorted and unfiltered information as you can, and that you act decisively. Remember that people are constantly searching for indications about their leader’s ability to carry them through a raging storm and they will interpret or misinterpret the slightest signals, whether those signals are sent intentionally or mistakenly.
― Larry Bossidy
2. Capability Allocation & Portfolio – Core Processes
With limited resources (people and financial), competing priorities, and a digital transformation agenda across all companies, it’s essential to put a strong portfolio and capability allocation strategy in place.
In many companies, the current approach of an “Entitlement” capability allocation strategy – “all parts of the business are equal and we’ll get scale by doing it for all” – is eroding value by wasting resources in low priority areas and slowing progress where it matters most. As we drove more rigor into the portfolio process, we got very clear on where and how value was created, it looked like this:
Interestingly, about the same time I took leadership of P&G’s Project Delivery, A.G. Lafley returned as P&G’s CEO. Knowing A.G. was a fan of Warren Buffett, I used an exchange one Sunday morning (Instant Messaging over email & coffees) to define a very different Capability Allocation model. Just as Warren Buffett allocated capital across his businesses – efficient and selective allocation based on return potential – we would do the same as we built new capabilities for P&G. No longer approaching digital transformation as something we would scale across every P&G business, we eliminated over $150 Million of capability spending while increasing the value of the total portfolio 50%! It also freed up the talent needed to take on the largest M&A portfolio in the history of P&G.
When I shared that we could deliver this type of savings, A.G. simply asked “what do you need from me?” My response, “cover my back, leaders won’t be happy.” He did so at every step!
Setting up the Portfolio and Capability Allocation Processes is a much longer topic that I won’t go into detail here (but happy to engage later).
Steps to Take Now
- Establish more rigor and leadership to get a clear picture of your current Capability Portfolio. Zero Base capability areas and projects in those areas. Too much legacy and historical spending just continues untested at the cost of current business needs.
- Get clear on the right projects, right scope, and right execution. Invest in your project execution approach and talent!
- Engage the right senior leadership on the Capability Allocation model. With the Digital Transformation imperative across businesses, this will be a magnifier on value creation if done well.
3. Technology & Business Expertise – Core Processes, Right People, Partners, Solutions
In a continuum of expertise from deep technical expertise with little business understanding, to deep business expertise without technology understanding, it’s clear you need both for the Digital Transformation success.
This can be achieved through a diverse team, long-term talent investment, and in hybrid models with external partners (also opening the opportunity for strategic partner co-investment in the effort). The team should be co-located if possible and sitting with the business.
The more complex the transformation, the greater the opportunity for truly bringing in disruptive thinking and partners. Delivery Transformation exists across all parts of the portfolio: New Digital Capabilities, Corporate Restructure Efforts (Legal Entity / Tax, EU GDRP, JV’s), and M&A. The days of being handcuffed by legacy systems and large monolithic systems approach are over. Now with cloud / Software as a Service models, companies are more able to embrace disruptive innovators across all business processes and structures. Too many companies are stuck in traditional cycle:
Breaking the cycle requires new technology, business, and delivery thinking.
Steps to Take Now
- Invest in your people now to build the long-term business & technical skills required. Invest in people that can learn new technologies, understand the changing business landscape, and will do what’s right for the company and people.
- Begin building your transformation strategies and platforms now before the next big acquisition or transformation. If you wait until the opportunity is in front of you, there will be no choice but to continue to do it the same way it has been executed in the past!
- Identify the Partners and Solutions needed to transform your solution delivery. Learn on the small initiatives to be ready for the big transformations.
4. Project & Solution Delivery – Critical Tasks
The biggest transformations needed in project and solution delivery is clearly the methodology and solutions to drive more value, speed, and successful execution.
Strong Project / Program Management is key and should be an area of continued competence investment. I ring-fenced top Project Managers, made it a core part of our IT Competencies, and continued to invest in new methodologies and talent! Given the business pressure and urgency, we began investing in Critical Chain Project Management methodology. Leveraging the “Theory of Constraints” work by Goldratt and others, we began delivering value from projects faster, more consistently, and with better leverage of resources (people, contingency spend, partners, development, etc.).
In parallel to the Project Management investments, we began investing in Agile-DevOps methodology and solutions to move to a more agile solution delivery needed with Digitizing key business processes. In addition to tackling massive development costs due to waterfall requirements/custom development cycles, we became better positioned to take advantage of RPA in operations and the massive manual testing processes plaguing our largest most complex transformations (legacy non-negative impact testing HELL!).
The DevOps Model with traditional players and disruptive innovators began a powerful cycle of simplification, speed, and strong operations! Even in the BI/Analytics domain, we brought in disruptive innovators to drive Agile/DevOps. Lingaro DevOps Model below:
On the testing front (where nearly 45% of the IT spend is trapped in major projects), it is now critical to move to a continuous / autonomous testing capability. On the Duracell and Coty divestitures, we dealt with over 40,000 and 100,000 business test cases respectively (many still executed manually). Tricentis Continuous Testing Model below:
Companies need to get the methodologies and right solutions in place now to be ready to win with the digital transformations! Learn now on smaller projects so you’re ready for the game changers.
Steps to Take Now
- Bring your Project Management leadership, methodology, and capabilities together / assess where you really stand. Identify the immediate opportunities and long-term investments, e.g., Critical Chain Project Management, needed to take your execution in this space to the next level.
- Identify your Agile-DevOps leadership, pockets of innovation, approach, strategic partners, and solutions, e.g., Continuous Testing, required to transform your solution delivery.
- Connect externally with non-compete Peers in both areas! You don’t need to figure this out on your own. Learn across industries and with other leading players driving their Solution Delivery for Digitization.
5. Culture – Social System, Feedback & Follow-through, Reward the Doers
The environment you are creating as a leader, what you do and what you accept from your team, will play a significant role in your success or failure!
The culture of a company is the behavior of its leaders. Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate. You change the culture of a company by changing the behaviors of its leaders. You measure the change in culture by measuring the change in the personal behavior of its leaders and the performance of the business.
– Dick Brown, CEO EDS
When taking over the Project Delivery area for P&G, I realized how big the transformation was going to be. We would need to deliver significant savings, accelerate value, and prepare the Company for the largest M&A portfolio in our history. Instead of taking the traditional VP Office space (often not even on the same floor as the team), I instead decided to setup “The Collaboration Table!” I would sit at a family style table with my Leadership Team and leverage video to connect our lead team members around the world. A small action (behavior) with big impact across the organization and how we operated.
As a lead team, we focused on being transparent, accountable, and available/approachable (folks could come to the Table any time and connect with us). We needed to stay Fast:
- Strong Leaders
- Diverse Talent
- Clear and Transparent Goals
- Immediate Decision Making
- Pivot Quickly
- Front Loading Value Delivery
This approach cascaded down through leaders and teams across the world. This truly allowed us to deliver more than any of us even thought was possible. As we front loaded value, we were also able to take more risks on talent, invest in solutions needed, and built strong credibility/trust with business leaders (up to and included the CEO).
Steps to Take Now
- Assess transparently the “smell” of the place. Talk not only with your direct reports, but two layers down the organization. Find key lieutenants who will give it to your straight (don’t get defensive).
- Identify some visible actions/behaviors you will personally take and stick with to begin. Be clear on how you plan to operate and what you expect and will accept from others. Hold to that!
- Realize that not everyone will make this journey with you. Get your Lead Team in place / right first and fast (including re-sizing if you are faced with making tough calls across the organization). Nothing will give you more credibility than starting with yourself and your immediate team!