Flawless Execution: Five Keys to Success

How to realize ideas from start to finish

It has long been my belief that great ideas are only as good as their execution.

You’ve seen it before. Bright new ideas are conceived by equally bright people, but due to a lack of knowledge on how to get started, or simply a lack of resources, these ideas are not brought to fruition. Instead of a new idea making a solid change in their business, it languishes as a half-formed plan or a pretty PowerPoint, never to see the light of day. Execution can be daunting, and often the highly visionary and the extremely busy want to simply run from the thought. But execution can really be boiled down to just five keys. When properly followed, success is almost always the result.


Do you truly understand the scope of the project/idea you are about to undertake? Take some time to sketch out the entire concept. Look at it from all angles. What else will it entail? How will it relate or interact with your other initiatives? Do you have the time, people and money resources to make it happen? Play the devil's advocate: why might it not work? What could go wrong (for example, did you check for copyrights or necessary permits)? What obstacles need to be overcome? Who needs to approve it? Who needs to buy into the idea? Think of every contingency you can, and have a plan to tackle it. Be painfully realistic here, but don't get negative. If the idea is a good one, there is always a way to get it done!


Now that you understand what has to be done, it’s time to break it down into chronological, specific and assignable steps. I find it helpful to place these steps under organized "buckets." For example: venue, contract, advertising, volunteers, etc. Underneath each "bucket," list every step needed, and who will get it done. Knowing who will be assigned is crucial, because then the plan can be pulled apart, and each team member will have their own list of tasks. Using a project management program such as Basecamp, Asana and others is great, but an Excel spread sheet can also do the trick. The main point is to be sure you have the ability to sort by bucket, team member, due date, etc.


Since you’ve already put the steps into chronological order, creating a timeline should be a snap. Assign due dates (thinking through how long it will realistically take to do each task) working backward from your final due date. This ensures you start in plenty of time to complete the project on time. If you go through this process and discover you needed to start three weeks ago, don't despair. Look at each step and see if any can be eliminated, if the timing can be shortened, or if there is an alternative step or way to get it done that will be quicker. Do you really need a paper invite? Can you ask your printer for a rush job? Can your writer work through the weekend? Can you put more team members on a task to speed it along? Make your adjustments and then stick to your timeline religiously.


Now you see your project can be done, done well and done on time. But chances are that your project, including a budget, needs approval by someone, even if that someone is you. Make another column in your step-by-step plan and assign any and all costs associated with each step. Get necessary bids early to avoid surprises and keep an eye out for hidden costs. Add it all up and make a projected ROI based on your anticipated results. Is it worth it? Will your approvers agree? Now is the time to make necessary adjustments to keep your vision affordable.


You have now put quite a bit of effort into making your great idea come to fruition. Take a moment to savor the accomplishment. Things went flawlessly, looked great and were well-received. Success, right? But how will you know if it was really a success? Your plan should have KPIs baked right into it so you can measure — and show others — your proven accomplishment. Put all this into some great graphs and charts to illustrate your success, and get ready to do it all again with another idea.

Jennifer L. Park is the director of marketing and sales at the University of Colorado South Denver. She is responsible for collaborating with other members of the senior team to lead CU South Denver success by developing enterprise and program strategy, driving and protecting a strong brand reputation and developing a strong consumer base. A multi-decade veteran in the marketing field, Park has helped companies such as Procter & Gamble, Kellogg, Eastman Kodak, Kimberly-Clark and Frito-Lay, achieve their brand and revenue goals.

Categories: Management & Leadership