From the Publisher
The book that shows how to get the job done and deliver results . .
. whether you're running an entire company or in your first
Larry Bossidy is one of the world's most acclaimed CEOs, a man with
few peers who has a track record for delivering results. Ram Charan
is a legendary advisor to senior executives and boards of
directors, a man with unparalleled insight into why some companies
are successful and others are not. Together they've pooled their
knowledge and experience into the one book on how to close the gap
between results promised and results delivered that people in
business need today.
After a long, stellar career with General Electric, Larry Bossidy
transformed AlliedSignal into one of the world's most admired
companies and was named CEO of the year in 1998 by Chief
Executive magazine. Accomplishments such as 31 consecutive
quarters of earnings-per-share growth of 13 percent or more didn't
just happen; they resulted from the consistent practice of the
discipline of execution: understanding how to link together people,
strategy, and operations, the three core processes of every
Leading these processes is the real job of running a business, not
formulating a "vision" and leaving the work of carrying it out to
others. Bossidy and Charan show the importance of being deeply and
passionately engaged in an organization and why robust dialogues
about people, strategy, and operations result in a business based
on intellectual honesty and realism.
The leader's most important job-selecting and appraising people-is
one that should never be delegated. As a CEO, Larry Bossidy
personally makes the calls to check references for key hires. Why?
With the right people in the right jobs, there's a leadership gene
pool that conceives and selects strategies that can be executed.
People then work together to create a strategy building block by
building block, a strategy in sync with the realities of the
marketplace, the economy, and the competition. Once the right
people and strategy are in place, they are then linked to an
operating process that results in the implementation of specific
programs and actions and that assigns accountability. This kind of
effective operating process goes way beyond the typical budget
exercise that looks into a rearview mirror to set its goals. It
puts reality behind the numbers and is where the rubber meets the
Putting an execution culture in place is hard, but losing it is
easy. In July 2001 Larry Bossidy was asked by the board of
directors of Honeywell International (it had merged with
AlliedSignal) to return and get the company back on track. He's
been putting the ideas he writes about in
Execution to work in real time.
From the Jacket
"If you want to be a CEO-or if you are a CEO and want to keep your
job-read Execution and put its principles to
-Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell Computer Corp.
"Good practical insight and advice on managing for results at firms
of any size. Execution is key, and this book
clearly explains what it means and how it brings together the
critical elements of any organization-its people, strategies, and
operations." -L. R. Raymond, chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil
"The best-thought-out plans in the world aren't worth the paper
they're written on if you can't pull them off. And that's what this
book is all about. Execution: The Discipline of Getting
Things Done is well written and gives sound, practical
advice about how to make things happen. It is well worth the
reading." -Ralph S. Larsen, chairman and CEO, Johnson &
"Larry Bossidy recognizes how execution in a business defines the
true greatness of a company. He captures a lifetime of building
winning formulas and puts them in a simple and practical context
for executives at any level. Read it!" -Ivan Seidenberg, president
and co-chief executive officer, Verizon
"For those managers who have struggled to make it happen, fix a
problem, get it done-or otherwise transform winning strategies into
genuine results-here's the missing medicine from two who know from
long experience what works and what doesn't. Larry Bossidy and Ram
Charan offer a compelling leadership prescription, and it comes
down to realism, discipline, and above all, great execution."
-Michael Useem, professor of management and director of the Center
for Leadership and Change, Wharton School, University of
"Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan define the true meaning of leadership
from an implementation point of view. Larry is the expert on
productivity in the world of business, and this book demonstrates
how leadership is the key to achieving ongoing financial success."
-Richard Schroeder, cofounder of Six Sigma Academy
About the Author
Larry Bossidy is chairman and former CEO of Honeywell
International, a Fortune 100 diversified technology and
manufacturing leader. Earlier in his career he was chairman and CEO
of AlliedSignal, chief operating officer of General Electric Credit
(now GE Capital Corporation), executive vice president and
president of GE's Services and Materials Sector, and vice chairman
Ram Charan is a highly sought advisor to CEOs and senior executives
in companies ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 500, including
GE, DuPont, EDS, and Colgate-Palmolive. He is the author of
What the CEO Wants You to Know and Boards
That Work and the coauthor of Every Business Is a
Growth Business. Dr. Charan has taught at both the Harvard
Business School and the Kellogg School of Northwestern University.
Charles Burck is a writer and editor who collaborated with Larry
Bossidy and Ram Charan. Earlier in his career he was an editor at
A conversation with Larry Bossidy, co-author (with Ram Charan) of
EXECUTION: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Why did you and Ram Charan decide to write a book
We were struck by the fact that there are hundreds of books
devoted to strategic planning, CEO profiles, and customer service,
but very little on turning strategy into reality. No one takes a
class on execution in business school, and many leaders have no
idea that it's a discipline in its own right, not just a matter of
Look at how many CEOs have been asked to resign in the last couple
of years. If you understand execution, it becomes very clear what
went wrong at companies like Lucent, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard,
Campbell, Kodak, and AT&T. These were good companies, with
smart CEOs and talented people, yet they failed to produce the
promised results. They failed to execute.
Ram and I believe that EXECUTION can help leaders
get things done more effectively at every level, in every size
You write that some companies have an "execution culture" -
what does that kind of culture look like?
At a company like General Electric, EDS, Dell, or Wal-Mart,
people are held accountable for what they promise to deliver. They
know that their bosses and colleagues are going to ask tough
questions and follow up. They don't suffer through endless meetings
where nothing gets resolved and the hard problems are swept under
the rug. Everyone tries hard to be realistic - especially about
people, strategic plans, and budgets.
When you have an execution culture, people also learn that excuses
don't count for much. You say that the economy took a downturn, or
your competitors did something completely unexpected? Well, why
didn't you see it coming sooner and make adjustments? No one can
solve every problem, but if you tolerate excuses, the people who
work for you will get into the habit of making excuses, instead of
taking responsibility and looking for creative solutions.
Leaders at these companies are passionately engaged in the details,
not just a sweeping vision of the future. They consistently ask the
right questions: Are our products positioned optimally in the
marketplace? Do we have the right strategy for this economy? Do we
have the right people in the right jobs? Do we have enough
financial and human resources to carry out our plans, and if not,
what are we going to do about it?
If you don't hear those kinds of questions, you don't have an
But if leaders are getting their hands dirty with details,
isn't that micromanaging?
There's a very clear line between being committed to execution and
micromanaging. Let's say I go to a business review or a planning
session with one of my unit leaders. We'll debate the strategic
plan for three or four hours, and then it's over. But I'll write
that person a letter on what we agreed upon in that strategic plan.
And then I'll follow up on that letter to make sure those things
On the other hand, I'm not setting pricing for that business, or
trying to determine its next marketing plan. I am trying to make
sure that the key decisions we make about running the business -
whether they're in personnel, strategy, or operations - get done. I
don't think people at Honeywell would say I micromanage, but they
would say I'm involved in everything.
How do you establish an execution culture at an organization
that doesn't have one?
It's not easy - you can't just announce, "We're going to have
an execution discipline from now on." You have to begin to evaluate
people by what they do, as opposed to what they say. You have to
differentiate between those who get results and those who don't,
and you have to make sure your stars are recognized and
You can't accomplish this overnight. But you can send a clear
signal early on that the company is putting a premium on execution.
This cascades down through the organization, and people will start
to focus on concrete results, as opposed to fuzzy visions for the
future. Once that mind-set begins to form, it's a terrific
What about people who don't embrace the execution
Ram and I believe that most people really want to improve
their performance, and are open to being coached. The problem is
that too many managers are afraid to give honest performance
reviews and constructive criticism. They do people a great
disservice by not confronting their shortcomings.
Let's say I'm appraising you. We talk about your successes and good
points, but I also bring up several key skill sets that you need to
work on. And I explain that I have an obligation to help you
develop, because a year from now, if we have the same list of
things to improve, I'll be critical of you, but you have reason to
be critical of me, too. Together, we have to make sure that you
make progress. That's what I do with all my direct reports, and if
this process goes on all over the company, the workforce does get
Of course, there will sometimes be people who resist coaching and
consistently fail to improve, and then you need the courage to ask
them to leave, because over time they'll hurt the rest of the
Why do you think it has taken so long for execution to be seen
as a critical management issue?
In the past, business leaders could get away with poor
execution by pleading for patience. But now everything moves much
faster, and Wall Street measures success in quarters, not years. A
company can lose a key market before it knows what hit it. If your
competitors are executing better than you, they're beating you in
the here and now, and the financial markets won't wait to find out
how your brilliant five-year plan is going to play out. So you
can't just delegate execution to someone else - you have to make it
a priority every day.