Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy

The key point in the whole book is the first word of the title – EXECUTION. There is without question in business in this country, and to a far greater extent overseas, a failure to execute. Businesses, like people have wonderful thoughts, ideas, notions, desires, goals, objectives, and needs. Try finding the company, entity, institution that bottom line, successfully gets things done. It comes back to EXECUTION.

The authors are as professional as you can get. Larry Bossidy is a product of the General Electric system of management. He is the man credited with building the division now known as GE Capital into what it is today. GE Capital is one of the most profitable divisions of any corporation in the world, and the envy of every financial institution including Wall Street.

Bossidy was one of three men in the running to become Chairman of General Electric. He lost to Jack Welch. It is traditional that when you are passed over as Chairman of GE, you take your time, but you leave. Bossidy left to run Allied Signal, which then was absorbed into Honeywell. It was during that corporate transformation that Bossidy became associated with the techniques that you are reading in his book, “Execution-The Discipline of Getting Things Done”.

His co-author is Ram Charan, who has taught at both Harvard Business, and the Kellogg School of Northwestern University. Charan has functioned as an international business consultant specializing in management. Without being mentioned, it is obvious that at some point Charan consulted for Bossidy somewhere along the way, and this is how the partnership was formed.

Why You Must Read this Book?

You read every word in a book like “Execution”, because you are getting it from the horse’s mouth. Even if other people can say it better, Bossidy is the guy who made the big bucks doing it. Who wouldn’t want to read a book on playing golf under pressure by Tiger Woods, or how you should prepare for a big basketball game the day of the game by Michael Jordan.

Bossidy is the real deal. He has run a major corporation, and posted major results, for a long period of time. All the major players are in agreement; that this is the man you go to when you want to talk about management. Now having said that, does the book ramble, yes, could it be shorter, yes, could it better written, the answer is of course. It still doesn’t make any difference. You have to read Bossidy, because even Jack Welch at GE read this book.

Here’s what you will learn very quickly

1) Execution isn’t everything – it’s the ONLY THING

You’ll remember that Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packer’s coach use to say that winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. The same thing can be said about EXECUTION. The only purpose bottom line for a business to be in business is to execute the goals, and objectives of the corporation.

2) The difference between Dreams, and Results is how you EXECUTED

Businesses started with goals and objectives, and then you have to get to reality. Everything in between is how you execute, and the authors make clear at every opportunity those instances where corporations did well (General Electric, Dell, EDS), and those times when corporations failed (Xerox, Lucent, Kodak, Motorola, AT&T). The examples given are thorough, and make sense. You know all these corporations.

3) The importance of the talent you field

Bossidy is so right on this one. He says that he spent 40% of his time picking the players. In the end, how much can a CEO personally do, or deliver? It’s true that a CEO can fairly easily blow up a corporate structure in a year or two. The two authors say the same CEO picking the right talent can deliver enviable results. They must be held to high accountable standards. You use the feedback to power the results.

4) Constant involvement with that talent

Bossidy is not a guy that leaves things to human resources. Bossidy talks about the importance of the lunch or dinner with his management team members, how he was constantly sizing them up. Could they deliver, would they execute. He is the only CEO I have ever heard of who personally would check referrals on those he hired. That kernel of information tells you everything. One could almost argue that if you put the right players into place, your job is 90% done, providing the system works.

I would like to take a moment to tell you how you work with a book like this. You need to write in the margins, you must underline, and you must question, and annotate the entire book. If you are someone that finds himself commuting either to work, or spending significant time in a car, than the audio version is excellent as well because it is in the author’s voices.

Recognize that this is a book you will read, or listen to many times. There are multiple layers of messages here, and you will not capture them all with the first run through of either the book, or the audio. Bossidy is acknowledged to be one of the most successful businessmen of his era, take advantage of it, and pull everything you can out of his book. Good luck