You don’t have to be a management expert to diagnose whether an organization has a strong culture of execution. It’s usually obvious. Just sit through a couple of top management meetings, and you’ll quickly get the idea.
If the meeting consists of a long Power Point presentation, filled with slides purporting to show all the wonderful things the presenting group has done; if others in the meeting sit quietly throughout, unwilling to ask questions or poke holes, knowing their own presentations will soon follow; if everyone leaves the meeting with no clear sense of what happens next; and if the lead manager sits quietly throughout, then you have every reason to be concerned. This is not a culture of execution.
On the other hand, if the presentation is short and to the point; if the presenter clearly highlights both successes and failures; if others feel free to question and debate the presentation; if there is a common understanding among everyone in the room on goals and timelines, and if all leave the room with a clear sense of what needs to happen next and who needs to do it, then you are likely witnessing a strong culture of execution.
Interestingly, it’s not always the actions of the lead manager in the meeting room that will signal the nature of the culture. If a manager sits silently through a long and uncritical and unquestioned presentation, he or she is probably failing to do the job. Same for a manager that raises questions or suggests goals that seem a total surprise to others in the room.
But if a manager sits silently as the presenter does a hard-headed critique; as others freely weigh in; and as everyone leaves with a clear sense of goals, timelines and next steps, then the manager is doing the job. The company has a culture of execution that can govern itself. That’s our final aim.