Bad Execution – and why it’s such a huge problem

People know they shouldn’t eat as much sugar as they do, the problem is bad execution.
People know they should exercise, the problem is bad execution.
People know they should spend more time with their loved ones, the problem is bad execution.

Managers know they should deliver their activities on time, the problem is bad execution.
Managers know they should give proper feedback for their teams, the problem is bad execution.
Managers know they should delegate properly, set priorities and follow up with their teams, the problem is bad execution.

If you really think about it, it’s not that people don’t know about it, not that they don’t have good intentions (and you know what they say about good intentions…), it’s just their execution that’s highly misguided.

In my journey working helping companies be more efficient and productive, I ended up discovering that the biggest problem of employees and managers is not knowing what they have to do: most of the time they DO know what has to be done, what they lack is a mechanist to stimulate and/or ensure that they’ll always follow the right steps when doing things.

I’ll use a personal example to share my vision about the problem: once I had a long chat with a successful personal trainer about what drives people to the level of discipline required to exercise and have better health. He explained to me that 80% of it is about being committed – what makes them wake-up early in the morning is not thinking about their own health or beauty concerns, but the fact that they’ve entered a commitment with another person when they hired a personal trainer that on every other day, at 7am they’d be at the gym, ready to work out.

Like he told me, “It’s kind of funny, everyone has the minimum knowledge required to regularly run and have a healthy life, my job is to act as their element of change. I push them, remember that they will upset me if they skip classes, show them that they can have the discipline it takes.”

When it comes to business, it’s no different – people need some “triggers” to remind them the right way of doing the right things, or else they tend to innocently cheat the system while executing their tasks, just like you thinking of bailing on your workout routine when the alarm clock rings thinking “I need 30 more minutes”, “It’s too cold outside, I’ll exercise twice as hard tomorrow”, “I’m not feeling well today” and so many other common well known excuses.

Here are a few tips that I always share with managers that wish to increase the quality of their work and level of execution:

Create easy and intuitive playbooks to guide and align expectations with your team:

Check-lists, instructions, pipes on Pipefy (you can’t blame a person for trying!) – it doesn’t really matter how you’ll do that, the first thing you have to keep in mind is that you have to be explicitly clear and straightforward about what your expectations about how the task should be done are and not less important how it shouldn’t be done. Make this playbook easily accessible and always available for your team.

Poka-Yoke, fool-proof processes:

Create fool-proof routines that prevent people from doing anything wrong – think of it like your automatic car, that doesn’t turn on if you don’t step on the brake and set the gear to neutral position, or an alarm clock that you’ve strategically positioned far away from your bed so you have to wake-up and get out of bed to turn it off.

Fewer targets:

Pick less priorities and processes that need to be improved and work on them to make sure that everyone has the necessary knowledge and motivation. Only allow yourself to move on to another target after you’ve seen explicit signs that the new behaviour/method has been totally incorporated.

Recurring follow-up meetings:

Remember when you were little and your mom asked you over and over again if you took your shower properly until she didn’t need to ask, because it was something you did without even have to think about it? That’s kind of what you have to do, take a few moments to stop and discuss with your team how your processes are being done and how important it is to follow each step properly.

Aim for the fruit hanging lower first:

It’s not about aiming for 100% accuracy on the first day, it’s about creating a consistent tendency of improvement. Don’t be too aggressive when setting up your goals and requirements in order to achieve “the best practice” on the first day. By doing so, you’ll only frustrate your team.

Real improvement is a behaviour and mindset change, not a “7 day detox plan“. Make space to embrace, most importantly, discuss what goes wrong, take time to chat about why mistakes happened and what the team can do to avoid them happening again.

Like a good friend of mine and one of Pipefy’s investors always says: “Get 1% better, everyday”.

See you!


Want to improve your execution? Try Pipefy!

We help companies keep organised and more productive by running their processes and day-by-day routines on an easy and intuitive tool, making them leave in the past inefficient manual forms, spreadsheets and e-mail threads.

Learn more here

Written by Alessio Alionço, Tech Entrepreneur | 5+ Years Product Management | Founder & CEO of Pipefy, founder of Acessozero (acquired) | An addicted on technology, books and sports.