It appears to me that there is a myth about business that focuses on buying in to the need for change, vision, or what have you. When a company doesn’t do what everyone knows it should, analysts might say that there just wasn’t the “buy in.” Even if the need was expressed by upper management, there is still the knowing head shaking. The CEO just didn’t buy in. The management team just didn’t internalize the need.
See, I don’t think people fail to execute because they haven’t bought in enough. People fail to execute because usually it is harder to do what you know you need to do than it is to simply keep doing the wrong thing. Think I’m wrong? Have you ever known a smoker who understands how terrible smoking is but just can’t quit? Why? The pain of changing behavior is greater than the pain of continuing unwise behavior. Some smokers face certain death before they are able (again that is able and not willing) to give it up. You probably know someone or someone with a relative who faced in no uncertain terms death or continuing to do some unhealthy habit and continued to do that unhealthy thing anyway. The issue wasn’t buy in. The pain of change was greater than the pain of not changing.
The business world is no different. I am convinced there are a great many CEOs who, for example, see great financial trouble on the horizon if they don’t change course. Nonetheless, the effort to convince a board or in some cases just to admit a problem is beyond control keeps them from taking appropriate steps. When we sell to a company, highlighting the “Pain” they face is absolutely critical. What about when we are the decision makers? What about when we have completely bought in but now we have to actually take action and put things in place to change? I could throw in some clichés here. This is where the rubber meets the road; where the boots hit the ground; this is where the buck stops, etc…
Let’s face reality. Buy in is easy. Execution takes work. It takes discipline. It takes internalization of the need so powerful that you don’t give in to the easier path. In short, execution is a decision to endure pain now for less pain later. You’ve bought in to the need for change. Great. Now take action. Until you do, no amount of buy-in will make a dime’s bit of difference in your business.