in Leadership, Leading the Self, Process Improvement

From ‘Knowing’ to ‘Doing’ and Execution as Your Best Strategy

I am fond of meaningful quotes and read this one a few days back – “Half of our problems can be solved by bridging the gap between what we know and what we do.”

My experience suggests that excellent execution of simple ideas will yield better results than great ideas executed poorly. Similarly, having good intentions for your team does not help unless you act on those intentions.

When an organization grows, one of the fundamental challenge is to bridge the gap between intentions at the top and actions taken by people who operationalize those intentions/ideas. For example, a CEO knows the importance of great customer service, but a lot still depends on how much the front-line managers and teams actually do something about it. The process of ideating is a creative one, and also common-sensical. But for implementing those ideas  you require a process. Unless supported by a strong process that enables teams to persist, ideas fade away like meteors – bright in the beginning and invisible after some time. They seldom hit the ground.

(Bonus: Read this GREAT piece from my friend Lisa Haneberg on importance of following through). Lisa explains the structure needed to effectively follow through.

In this context, I wanted to share a powerful story of how “die-hard focus on execution” can be your best strategy to create a differential value. Thanks to David Witt at Blanchard LeaderChat for sharing this excellent story:

Colleen Barrett, past president of Southwest Airlines, was asked about some of the techniques she used to keep morale high at her company. One of the things she shared was how she spent time every day writing personal notes to employees recognizing them for accomplishments, noting milestones achieved, or just saying thank you. After she had shared some of her “secrets” she was asked if she was worried about competitors finding out what she was doing and copying it.

Colleen wasn’t worried. Why? Because she knew that the power of what she was doing wasn’t in the concept—it was in the execution. In Barrett’s case, she knew that most executives wouldn’t take the time to write 4,000 personal notes a year to employees like she did. And that was why she wasn’t worried that they would duplicate the culture.

The idea of writing notes wasn’t the magic. Actually doing it was. What’s waiting in your idea queue? Make the shift from knowing to doing. That’s where the power is.


So, important questions as you start a new week:

  • What are those top 2 ideas that you think can make a big difference to your work/project/business? (Write them down)
  • Have you planned execution/communication structure for those ideas? (Remember, what gets scheduled/planned gets done)
  • How and when will you measure progress and results? (Measuring is important to maintain momentum)

Have a great start into the week!

P.S: You might also like reading my older posts that address this topic in a different perspective.

  1. Hi…
    Once again! great article to start new week.

    Thanks and have a great week ahead.

  2. Dear Sir,

    Thank you very much for such a wonderful post. I am a regular reader of your blog since a long, and learnt a lot from your articles.

Comments are closed.


  • A Round Up of My Writing in March 2010 April 1, 2010

    […] ‘Doing’ does not complement ‘Knowing’, ‘Knowing’ is of no use. I wrote a post ‘From Knowing to Doing and Execution as Your Best Strategy’ containing an inspiring story of Coleen Barrett, Ex-President of Southwest Airlines and how she […]