Review: It’s Not What You Say…It’s What You Do

Laurence Haughton’s latest book has a startlingly simple premise:

businesses are successful not because of what they say they are going to do (their strategy), but because of what they actually do (how well they execute)

The latest management fads (ahem, I mean, techniques) don’t offer the secret to success. The latest business buzzwords du jour are no panacea.

In the end it all comes down to how well you execute whatever strategy you decide to go after.

The Introduction to Laurence’s book sums it up. It describes research called The Evergreen Project that examined 160 companies to find out why some outperformed others consistently:

The final conclusion surprised everyone. “It matters little whether you centralize or decentralize … if you implement ERP software or a CRM system,” wrote the experts in their final analysis, “it matters very much though that whatever you choose to implement you execute it flawlessly.”

Conventional wisdom is wrong. Becoming a winner, a loser, a climber or tumbler in any industry is not the result of finding (or failing to find) the perfect strategy for your organization. What makes or breaks your company is your grasp over management’s most basic mission — to make sure everyone at every level is following through.

So you might say, if the Introduction offers the magic formula for business success, why read the book?

There’s an excellent reason.

Executing well in business is a lot easier said than done. Trust me, I know.

The book outlines what business managers need to do if they and their teams are going to follow through and execute their strategy. The advice is detailed, solid from a management perspective, and well-organized.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this book is its style. Laurence Haughton’s writing keeps this book upbeat and interesting.

  • First, he tends to use real-life case studies to illustrate points. But these are not dry academic case studies — they’re colorful stories and vignettes. They involve companies and even people you may have read about in the news. They frequently include dialogue by the managers, as if they are characters in a screenplay. That’s what makes the case studies so memorable.
  • Second, he writes in a staccato style, with short sentences and short paragraphs. A number of paragraphs consist of one or two sentences. This gives the writing a crisp cadence that makes the book easy to digest.

At a little over 200 pages the book can be read in a few evenings — a virtue in our time-starved lives. Of course, you will want to refer back to the book at various points to put the lessons into place.

I recommend reading “It’s Not What You Say… It’s What You Do: How Following Through at Every Level Can Make or Break Your Company.” Even though it is not self-styled for “small” businesses, the wisdom applies to any size business, large or small. Because after all, even small businesses need to execute well.

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.