Flawed strategy is seldom the sin of these failed CEO's.
In the majority of cases - estimated 70% - the real
problem isn't the high-concept boners. It's bad execution.
As simple as that; not getting things done, being indecisive,
and not delivering on commitments. Execution
isn't the only reason CEO's falter, but it's clear
that getting execution right will only become more crucial.
Those executives who don't deliver are getting pushed
So why do CEO's blow it? More than any other way, by
failure to put the right people in the right jobs and
the related failure to fix (take action on) people problems
in time. They are unable to deal with a few key subordinates
who sustain poor performance and deeply harm the company.
Quick Action on problems is imperative. Yet you needn't
be ruthless to get things done. When Lou Gerstner parachuted
in to fix IBM he famously declared "the last thing IBM
needs right now is a vision"; he focused on execution,
decisiveness, simplifying the organization for speed
and breaking gridlock. Many expected heads to roll,
yet Gerstner changed only a few of his top executives.
It's fascinating to watch what happens when a CEO
who executes well brings these habits into a company
where they don't exist. The whole tone changes.
For great executives commitment is everything. As Dick
Brown says, "Delivering on commitments is the most
important thing." Great CEO's hold people accountable,
Often failed CEO's had remarkably aggressive plans to
remake themselves (their companies), but they couldn't
begin to make it happen because they had no plan for
the execution. For many it has been the lack of leadership
in making the plan work. Any way you look at it mastering
execution turns out to be the odds-on best way for a
CEO to keep his job.
The winning executives have what Bossidy calls "a drive
to be competitive all of the time." They get a charge
out of pushing, pushing, pushing to make change happen.
While strategies are vitally important, in reality,
that's less than half of the battle.
Strategies quickly become public property. If you ask
Michael Dell he would tell you their competitive advantage
is their "direct business model." Every one has known
about it for years. Yet it's still a competitive advantage
because "We execute it. It's all about knowledge
and execution." Southwest Airlines is the only airline
that has made money every year for the past 27 years.
Everyone knows its strategy, yet no company has successfully
copied its execution.
A good clear strategy is necessary for success - but
not sufficient for survival. The derailed executives
are smart people who worried deeply about a lot of things.
They just weren't worrying enough about the right
things: execution, decisiveness, follow-through and
delivering on commitments.