Do you have a culture of Say-Do?
I heard this new term in a meeting the other day, and I loved its simplicity—“say-do”. As in, say you are going to do something and then do it.
Say-do is an aspect of culture many companies struggle with, especially in hyper-growth mode or times of upheaval and change. Much to the chagrin of founders who are used to just getting stuff done.
Entrepreneurs see a problem and solve it. We identify something that needs to be done and we execute it. Our first few hires are usually cut from this same cloth too.
But of course, that doesn’t scale. We add people, the to-do list gets longer and just keeps growing, we talk about ideas and strategies but they don’t get implemented or measured. We lose focus on priorities. We spend time meeting about things versus doing things. And when this happens we stop executing and get stuck.
At some point during rapid growth or change, it’s time to get very intentional about creating a culture of execution. You know it’s time, and that your company’s ability to execute has slipped, when:
- You find yourself frustrated due to perceived lack of ownership, drive, and follow-through across the organization.
- You and your team talk about the things that need to get done, but it seems like they never actually get done.
- You and your team are talking about the same initiatives over and over again.
- You leave meetings without clear action items and owners.
- Actions are identified, but then dropped, and there is no follow up.
- You feel like your company is running in place.
- Something feels off, but you can’t put your finger on it.
Despite what you think, the root of the problem probably isn’t with the people you’ve hired, it’s with the culture you’ve unintentionally allowed to happen around you. The solution isn’t to “crackdown” or “get a fire lit under everyone’s [blank]”.
The solution is to shift your company culture towards “say-do” (a.k.a. execution). To do this, we have to be intentional, and we need an operating system that is consistently applied, measured and improved.
What that looks like will be unique to your company, your management style, and your leadership team. OKRs can help, but they don’t really incorporate the “how” component of execution that is often missing in strategic planning. No matter your size or stage or operating system, creating a culture of execution requires:
- Radical prioritization. You can’t do everything, and you definitely can’t do it at once. A lack of execution often comes from diluted goals or long lists of initiatives competing for time and attention. Get really, really, really concise with your goals and priorities.
- Visibility. Once you have set goals and priorities, they need to be clearly communicated and reinforced across all your interactions across the company. It’s up to you and your leadership to beat the drum and weave your priorities into everything that everyone is working on.
- Emphasize how. Without defining how things will get done, things often don’t get done. Execution stalls and things get stuck. If you, or anyone, say you are going to do something, take the next step to discuss the how. Just talking about the ‘how’ is often enough to help people get clear about their action items and what needs to be done.
- Accountability. Every company needs a way to capture the things people say they are going to do, and follow up on them. It could be in Trello, or Confluence, or in a Google Doc….the tool doesn’t matter. When people commit to doing something, their team needs to hold each other accountable to provide updates and discussion around those items. Don’t be afraid to openly discuss what is, and what isn’t, getting done and why.
- Discipline. Discipline to stay focused on the priorities and to not add new priorities (at least not without discussion and dropping something else). Discipline to hold people accountable to do what they say they will do. Discipline to continuously communicate the priorities across the organization. A culture of execution requires discipline.
Some books that can help you think through how to create a culture of say-do in your company:
- Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
- Measure What Matters
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business
In summary: Say Do
I don’t know where Say-Do originated, but I love it. The only real reference to say-do that I could find on the web is a tidbit on the CultureLabX site, which includes a little matrix.
Bottom line—get concise with your priorities, and focus on follow up. Find an operating system that includes execution and follow-through. Don’t berate your team for not executing, just lead by example and make the shift towards say-do.