Execution and the value of repetition: a lesson from the world's fastest man
When the world's top sprinters, like Usain Bolt or our very own Akani Simbine, are training for an upcoming race they practise consistently. Every time they train, they track their performance and make subtle tweaks to improve their results. Over the course of their careers, chances are that they've practised their 100m sprint thousands of times. These races are won by milliseconds. With so little room for error, they need to make sure that every movement is executed perfectly. And doing so is all about repetition.
When it comes to execution in business, repetition is equally as important. But before you decide on the processes you want to repeat, you need to use sound data to identify where you're succeeding and where you may be falling short. Strategically using this information will ensure that you win the race, every time. Below are my top tips for execution success.
Know yourself: I've often highlighted the value of knowing your strengths and weaknesses and this is so important when it comes to execution. Did you know that Bolt has had some problems with his starting technique? And that he's had to spend extra time working on it to guarantee that he gets out of the blocks as quickly as possible? Or that his height (he's about 1.95m tall) allows him to hold speed for longer and decelerate at a slower rate than his shorter competitors?
Knowing where his strengths and weaknesses lie, Bolt can work on his shortcomings, while leveraging his height advantage. The same applies for business: good leaders will ensure that they play to their team's strengths and help their employees work on improving their weaknesses.
Know what you're up against: Just as you need to know yourself, you also need to know what you're up against. This means doing your homework around how external factors can affect your performance. Research shows that the hotter the temperature and the greater the tailwind, the faster 100m dash records fall. If something like the weather isn't playing along, you need to know how this will affect your outcomes. In the business world, this entails understanding how your systems and people perform in different situations and coming up with strategies to handle these circumstances.
Adjust objectives when things change: Part of knowing what you're up against is being adaptable when hurdles are put in front of you. And hurdles will be put in front of you. Just ask an athlete who gets injured when they're training for a big race. When things happen to thwart your execution plans, you need to adjust your goals and rethink where the finish line may be. Maybe you wanted to get a project completed by the end of the month but tasks are taking longer than expected. Successful execution is all about adapting early and making changes so that setbacks have minimal impact.
Identify your execution frontrunner: When running a relay race, much time is spent figuring out in what order the runners should run. Your final runner needn't necessarily be the fastest but they should definitely be the gutsiest. When it comes to execution in business, you need to make similar decisions. Some people are good at execution, others are less so. Business leaders must identify these individuals and give them the responsibility of creating synergy within the team. It is equally essential to measure performance consistently because this is how you identify where processes can be improved. And when all of this comes together, teams are able to execute tasks successfully and achieve desired results.