If you’re serious about getting your business past the “few systems, few procedures, it feels out of control” mode, to a point where you can actually grow your business and feel confident, then please listen up.
Execution Revolution is the new book by Gary Harpst, founder of Solomon Software (now part of Microsoft) and more recently, of Six Disciplines Corporation.
I’ve met Gary several times and interviewed him by phone. Every time, I walk away feeling inspired from the inside out.
Gary’s Story – And Why it Adds so Much to the Book
A lot of people write business books, but few bring the quarter-century-plus of experience that Gary brings. Even fewer have the kind of success Gary has had. Gary is usually too modest to talk much about his past, except in a self-effacing way. So let me tell you his story.
In the days when software was still young (1980), Gary got together with some other fellows from a church group and started Solomon Software. Solomon Software soon grew to be one of the leaders in accounting software for small to midsize businesses. About 20 years later the company was acquired by Great Plains Software. The purchase price was $140 million. Eventually the company ended up in the Microsoft fold.
I mention this history solely to point out that the marketplace validated the fine job Gary did building a business.
Of course, when you read Gary’s books, most of the time you’d hardly know how much success he’s had. He talks more about his failures. He talks about all the things he learned the hard way after years of doing it wrong.
Not a Sugar High
And that’s what I like about Execution Revolution. It’s not a rousing pump-you-up kind of book — you know, a sugar high that leaves you with nothing afterwards. No, this book is more like having a good balanced, healthy meal. It stays with you and gives you the strength to accomplish your life’s work.
I had the good fortune to be given a pre-publication manuscript for Execution Revolution and a chance to share some feedback with Gary (and his right hand, Skip Reardon, of the Be Excellent blog). I really appreciated the trust they showed me in sharing a work in progress. Even now I find myself flipping back through the manuscript running key points over and over in my mind.
The book will be out soon, and when it is I will update this review with the link. Maybe we can even get a few copies to give away to readers (hint, hint, Skip). Meanwhile, let me whet your appetite.
Goes Beyond Gary’s First Book
Gary’s first book, Six Disciplines for Excellence, which is one that I flip back to regularly, outlined a methodology for building a business past the startup stage. That book is actually a workbook. It walks you through a method for determining what business your company truly is in (harder to figure out than you’d think). It gives you exercises and step-by-step instructions for how to set goals, align employees to get everyone in the company on the same page, align compensation with goals so that you are paying for performance, and so on.
Execution Revolution, the second book, goes beyond the methodology. That’s because as business people we need more than a method.
Most of us need someone and/or something to hold us accountable. We need tools, such as software tools, to help us measure our progress and stay on track. And we need human coaching and support (why else do you think so many successful entrepreneurs hire business coaches?) — someone other than ourselves to hold us accountable. And we need to establish accountability throughout the company so that it becomes part of everyone’s daily work patterns.
The book also points out that everyone in the company should be viewed as part of a learning community. It can’t just be the leadership team of the company pushing down knowledge. It must be shared learning, at all levels of the company. And it can take many forms, including peer groups, benchmarks, company wikis, document templates, conversations and team meetings … you name it.
Execution Revolution explains how to put this kind of detailed accountability and shared learning into place
Gary says he wrote Execution Revolution for 3 reasons:
“First, I noticed that what business leaders think is their biggest problem, really isn’t. No matter what their problems are today, they’ll be different and bigger tomorrow. Second, I found that there is one business problem that, if solved, makes solving all other problems easier. Knowing how to plan and execute, while overcoming today’s surprises, is the most foundational capability any organization can have. Finally, an opportunity exists for small and midsized businesses to leapfrog a whole generation of impractical, large-company approaches that have been used to attack this problem.”
Gary has invented a system called Six Disciplines that incorporates these points. But don’t worry. The book is not about the Six Disciplines approach per se. You won’t have to sign up for the Six Disciplines program to understand the book and use it. Actually, the book seldom mentions the Six Disciplines program by name. Instead it conveys information of broad appeal to small and midsize business leaders.
Who the Book is For
This is not a “how to start a business” book. Execution Revolution is designed for businesses that have been in business at least a few years and made traction already. If you’re purely a startup, say 6 months old, you may find parts of the book helpful, but you won’t be able to put all the lessons into practice. That’s because your business is too new; you’re still figuring out how to get enough customers just to survive.
It’s also not a book for businesses in dire trouble. For that you need turn-around help.
However, if you’ve been in business a few years, gotten your small to midsize business to a steady-state level of success, and are itching to get to the next level, this is the book you need. You will want to read Execution Revolution.