“Having ideas is easy – turning them into reality is genius!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Execution is everything.
One of these books was the one I wrote; the other, I did not. My advice to organizations has long been to “Think big, start small, scale fast!” It’s never been to “think small, delay now, and scale slow!”
Even though I put the alternate book title together for a bit of fun, it also emphasizes a point – some organizations might put yet another twist of potential failure into their path to the future if they don’t nail the part of how to actually get there. They “think big,” then “start small” – but suddenly, they “scale slowly” because they “delay now“. Their ideas never get off the ground because they fail at one of the most critical aspects of aligning to the future – by not acting upon their ideas with speed. Operationally, they are doomed.
Think about the criticality of that third step! In my mantra for how to align to the future, the “big thinking” part can come to many people – we all excel at ideas. We can certainly all “start small” – tinkering is in our blood. But “scale fast?” That’s a special skill, an art of organization, a triumph of logistics, and it is not something that comes to all people.
History is littered with the wreckage of failed initiatives, impossibly brilliant ideas that were never transformed into action. Execution is the art of the initiative, the critical foundation to the imaginary mind that floats someone into the future. Without it, there is no future. If you do anything in your past to tomorrow, make sure you know how to surround yourself with the experts of execution, the people who can get things done, and those who can organize their way through the storms of complexity. You need them because often, they know what you do not!
(Sidebar: in my case, this is my wife and business partner of 33 years!)
But the future is not just about getting things done – in our new world, it’s about executing quickly. Consider this Daily Inspiration from 2017: “Focus on agility. Structure for execution!”
At the time, I wrote:
I’m out for a meeting today with a good friend who has built a software business based on the concept of ‘agile software development.’ It’s a methodology that accelerates the process of bringing solutions to bear. Yet ‘agile’ isn’t just a software development mindset anymore – it’s a critical leadership trait that is making its way into the executive suite.
Over the last few years, the concept of ‘leadership agility‘ has risen to the forefront, which crystallizes the concept that today, a leader can’t just lead – they need to lead with flexibility and agility. That implies operational speed – and fast execution! In that context, many of my talks in the last few years have begun to focus on agility, and the importance of structuring for speed in a world of high-velocity change.’
Scale fast? Find that person! They know how to actually get things done!