[Update:] When I originally reviewed this book back in April, it was based on my reading of a pre-release copy in PDF form. Recently I received the hard copy and re-read the book. I liked the book even more in its finished form, and have some updated thoughts on it, reflected in the text below. I also realized just how much more I engage with a printed book vs. an on-screen book - no wonder I print out lots of PDF's to read them on the plane...
Gary Harpst's "Execution Revolution" is a book designed to get your business to the next level. I loved this book, and I think the subtitle sums it up quite well: "Solving the one business problem that makes solving all other problems easier." What's the "one problem?" Execution.
Voice of experience
If you're unfamiliar with Gary, he was the founder of Solomon Accounting (very popular software back in the 80's and early 90's when the PC industry was very young). He grew his business from a startup to a large, successful enterprise - finally selling the company to Great Plains Software (since purchased by Microsoft) for a hefty sum.
One of the things I love about Gary's methods and style is that he incorporates his own lessons learned, successes, and experiences into his books - and that makes his guidance seem much more actionable and achievable.
More than a memoir
Don't worry, though - this book is not about hyping up Gary's past. Instead, he presents stories we can learn from (like when he had to layoff half his company) and provides structure and techniques so other small-to-medium businesses (SMB's) can avoid some of the problems he encountered. The other thing I noticed very early in the book is that Gary uses tons of data to support his ideas (but I guess that makes sense from a guy who started an accounting software company).
The stories Harpst relates (his own and specially selected vignettes from other companies) rang true for me - whether he was talking about the problem with communication as an organization grows, the tendency to refrain from action even when you know the right thing to do, or problems that occur when you don't factor human nature into the difficulty of making business changes.
A book of action
This book is centered on a methodology designed to guide you through actionable steps to become better at execution within the business, with the goal of taking your business to the next level. Just as his first book focused on Six Disciplines, Harpst has focused Execution Revolution on a 6-phase system to address problems with execution:
- Decide what's important (Strategy)
- Set goals that lead (Plan)
- Align systems (Organize)
- Work the plan (Execute)
- Innovate purposefully (Innovate)
- Step back (Learn)
And the whole thing repeats.
Knowing vs. doing
Now, at a glance, you might think "OK - that all sounds obvious or familiar..." but I encourage you to see what Harpst has to say. After all, how many business have a pretty good idea what they should be doing, but are falling short on delivery and execution? Harpst has obviously been there along with the rest of us, and has devoted his attention to helping organizations break through this obstacle to become high performers.
Harpst's book goes beyond platitudes, and his recommendations are meaty and actionable.
The Power of Compounding
One notion I really liked is how Gary applied the concept of "compounding interest" to businesses operations and individual actions. He states that "...compounding teaches us our lives are built on our past," and discusses how even small decisions really matter:
"Building an organization that knows how to execute is based on how you do the little things; every goal you set, every interaction with a team member, every person you hire, every customer interaction. They all matter. And they are all compounding for good or for something else."
This whole concept is about building sustainable, thriving businesses - not just opportunistic, "flip this house" kinds of businesses - and Gary does an excellent job of making this point.
This is not a 'getting started' business book. It's a 'getting better' or 'getting results' book that is well-suited for established SMB's who are in the midst of (or in fear of) a plateau or decline in performance. If you want to jump the curve and get better results in leading an SMB, this book is one you should read.