We’re all starting to understand the phrase “Culture eats strategy for lunch” to be true from our own experiences, taking one step back from the organisational momentum that culture design brings is the transition from ideas to execution. Fulfilling the potential of an idea is hard but to be honest Ideas are free, execution can be priceless.
One moment before you jump on me about the value of patents there is value in an idea it’s realising that value that is the key to successful conversion, ideas and execution need to exist in converse. Visualising the possibilities of an idea, working back through the things-to-be-done to get there, breaking that down into short chunks are all elements of great execution that will bring your idea to life and all going well realise success.
Setting the scene – True Story
A team emerges from a short, intense Accelerator programme, two of the founders (names changed) – Jackie and Davey – wanted to move forward with their product idea alone no longer feeling the love for the rest of the team or each other. For the purpose of this example lets accept in complete bemusement the programme created the conditions for this to happen, so off they went.
Time goes by and Jackie launches her product company, starts trading and is away on the long hard journey of life as a business owner and entrepreneur. Davey meanwhile – jealous as hell – hasn’t got out of the blocks, he went back to his day job while looking for investors, looking for a new partner, looking for a new supply chain and going around badmouthing Jackie, even threatening legal action (back to that bemusement). Upshot is Davey hasn’t executed on the idea they jointly owned at some point.
A common condition
The world is full people with ideas. How many times has someone said to you “I had that idea” as they pointed to the latest gadget you purchased, they probably did! they just didn’t execute on it due to lack of resources, appetite for risk or plain old couldn’t be bothered. To be fair the world needs worker bees too, so it’s OK some of aren’t the start something kind of people.
There are also many pre-revenue startups caught up in the ideas phase, some companies who fail admit to lacking focus chasing down too many ideas haphazardly, often without adequate validation of the market, their solution or price point – to name a few planning shortfalls.
Researching an idea to death
At one end of the spectrum I occasionally meet someone who has produced a tome, a business plan containing detail of detail, usually wanting to protect their idea and asking for a signed NDA before they will talk about it. Reality is with 95% of these (lets call them wantrapreneurs) they never get off the ground. They have elicited the idea to death in a timeframe others have seised the market opportunity and out-executed them. It would seem many of these people don’t have the risk appetite to quit their day jobs or take the first step and launch in parallel.
Research is important within a controlled structure with absolute clarity of knowing when it’s ok to scratch the surface vs when a detailed deep dive is required. We have a concept called research stories (as an agile organisation) at OptimalBI, I wrote this blog about them a while back. They ensure research is time boxed and is shared with demonstrable output.
JFDI – Just F*!ken Do It approach
At the polar opposite end of the spectrum to me are the JFDI people – idea a minute people, completely brilliant but not too keen on process, controlled testing of a concept, seeing an idea through to operationalisation or working backwards from a vision to create an execution path.
Don’t get me wrong there is a large element of JFDI in successful execution. Often you won’t have all of the facts, or know what the consequences of a decision will be – intended or otherwise – so will need to make a rapid call, time to market itself dictates JFDI.
JFDI people tend to execute on gut and confirmation bias. This approach also lends itself to failing fast either by design or as a consequence of failing fullstop.
Trying Once is not Executing
In an ideal world failing fast will result in lower cost, less disruption for your business and earlier lessons learned. Failing fast however is becoming trendy and results in initiatives being abandoned far too soo. As an advisor and director I am often faced with operational teams dismissing an idea they pursued as a failure. I often find unpicking what went wrong and eliciting the lessons we can learn, they only tried once – one tactic, one solution, one method.
Trying once isn’t executing it’s playing to be frank. Seeing whether an idea can stick needs a variety of tactics applied, is it price point? features? what did A-B testing find? wrong market segment? marketing language? so many possibilities for why an idea doesn’t work first shot. Taking an idea to fruition requires commitment.
From Idea to Success via Execution – 3 tips
Not all ideas are created equally or can be successfully executed on, focus should be placed on the ones that will shift a business forward, disruptive ideas, innovative ideas, pivots on existing lines of business, market differentiating ideas.
If you do have a great idea or 100 of them here are three tips to help you succeed:
- Give your idea focus – your purpose is to execute on the idea so ensure you provide it with the level of appropriate focus and commit
- It’s really easy for a busy business to half arse it with an idea, whether this is transformational or a minor pivot there needs to be an appropriate level of focus applied to enable successful conversion
- Create a fail fast framework – rather than piling money on an untested idea create a framework to incrementally develop and test it
- We use a 1 week sprint concept for developing a vision and proving a concept with clear acceptance criteria to inform whether we carry on investing in another 1 week sprint to prove it further or develop minimum viable product and so on
- Talk about the idea incessantly – the more you vocalise it with others the faster you can iterate it
- Our philosophy is the value in testing the idea on people before we spend a cent outweighs the risk of them stealing and out executing on us – and good on them if they do to be honest!
So get over your sour grapes that you didn’t invent the iPhone before Steve Jobs and get cracking on executing! Enjoy the success, Vic.
Victoria MacLennan is passionate about business, growth and scale. She champions workplace diversity, women in leadership, women in governance and strengthening the economy through Digital and Technology as just a few of her many projects.