“All of us were excited about our newly developed growth plan.  That said, somehow we neglected to clarify specifically who is responsible for doing what by when.”

Studies tell us that 60-70% of business failures are due, not to a bad strategy, but due to bad execution.

If we know this to be true, then why does it continue to plague so many companies?

Our experience is because excellence in execution requires building a disciplined Tactical Planning and Review culture. We have seen that businesses that do build such a culture have a mantra of plan, act, track and refine (P-A-T-R ).

Because it sounds simple, not sexy, many businesses neglect to focus on this truly essential discipline for getting things done on time.

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Executing strategy by Rob Lambert (Cranfield School of Management)

Let’s explore each ingredient of a disciplined Tactical Planning and Review culture.

Plan involves translating important goals into specific action steps that are critical to business success. A disciplined culture is one in which people discuss and agree on five key things:

  1. Why a goal is important;
  2. Who is responsible;
  3. for What desired outcome;
  4. by When; and
  5. how to Measure successful outcomes.

Act involves people committing to hold themself personally accountable for taking the actions needed to achieve a goal on time and to agreed measurable outcomes.

Track involves using an “alerts” system to gather goal owners and key others (leaders and co-workers) in a forum for timely, open discussions about how goals are progressing. Without these discussions achievement is left to the isolated will of the individual goal owner alone. Lonely stuff!

Refine involves acting on what is learned during tracking discussions.  This may mean revising actions plans as needed to head off emergent and potential problems before they compromise achieving the goal, or to revise the goal itself given emergent realities.

So if you truly want to ensure that important things get done on time, don’t turn to something sexy. Think of building a disciplined Tactical Planning and Review culture.

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Some questions for you and your leadership team:

  • How effective is your business in building a culture in which important things get done on time, in an efficient way and to high expectations?
  • To what degree do you walk away from important meetings not being clear about who is to do what by when and how success will be measured?
  • How effective is your business at using milestone dates and timely alerts as touch points for open discussions that head off problems before become serious?



  1. Norton and Kaplan, The Balanced Scorecard, ; and numerous other studies.
  2. Adapted from the Shewhart Cycle used in 6 Sigma quality processes

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