Plan Execution: From an Apple Sr. V.P.
Jay Elliot served as the Senior Vice President of Apple Computer, responsible for all corporate operations, including HR, Facilities, Real Estate, IT, Education, and Pacific Rim Sales, plus corporate business planning, reporting directly to Steve Jobs, chairman of the board. Also, as a member of the Macintosh organization, Jay helped Steve create the Macintosh computer from development to introduction. During his tenure at Apple, sales grew from $150 million to more than $3 billion.
I chatted with Jay on 3-3-2011.
My ear piece rang with clutter when Jay Elliot picked up the phone. Dogs barking. Crackling sounds that left me wondering if a hurricane just made landfall in California – and a voice that eventually said, “Can I call you back in ten minutes?”
Ten minutes later, after the usual greetings, I heard something about exterminators, dogs and chaos.
From that platform a conversation launched that spanned over 30 years and positions in three of the world’s great companies, ending with Steve Jobs and Apple.
Leadership Freak (LF): Many people would die for a chance to lead at IBM, Intel, or Apple. You’ve been at all three. What did people like Andy Grove and Steve Jobs see in you?
Jay Elliot (JE): I think they saw someone that was:
- Able to execute a plan
- A person able to build strong allegiances with people on his team
He chuckled like he did many times during our chat and said it doesn’t hurt that I’m 6’5”. It doesn’t hurt that I was an athlete and that I’ve been leading since I was a kid.
LF: Talk to me about executing a plan.
JE: There are several components to executing plans. Here are a few.
- Execution begins with vision. You have to know where you are going.
- Build a frame-work around your vision that includes schedules and deadlines.
- Create expectations. Consistently let everyone know where you want to go. Paint a picture and keep it in front of everyone.
- Prepare people for meetings. Don’t trap or embarrass people during meetings. Publish your agenda the day before. Clearly articulate what you expect, where you want to go, and what it’s going to take to get there.
- Maintain relevancy. Make sure everyone knows that you know what’s important.
What are the key elements of effective plan execution?
Jay Elliot is an entrepreneur and author of, “The Steve Jobs Way: ileadership for a new Generation.”
Okay, now I’m left waiting….. 🙂 I can’t wait to read the rest!!
Have a great day,
Hey Tab, thanks for the encouraging word. Best, Dan
Hey Dan. What I here is clarity of vision, confidence to do what ever it takes, and executiion. I love this bit “Don’t trap or embarrass people during meetings. ” there are plenty of managers and Boards of directors who could learn from that. Cheers Richard
Yes yes… plenty could use that advise.
I thought it was interesting that Jay spent a good amount of time talking about the way he ran meetings. Effective meetings are central to effective execution.
Makes the case for a revisit to your earlier post on Death by Meeting! Patrick Lencioni’s Tablegroup has some great downloads related to meetings.
One key element is wiggle room. Plans that are too rigid in structure cannot compensate or adapt as quickly. Just as it does in the plumbing project I’m in the middle of for our home; a flexible structure (in this case, for the water source) sure beats the rigid inflexible pipes I’m replacing in a tiny space. Especially in an older home where nothing is standardized. Build flexibility and adaptability into the plan.
When the circumstances and conditions change we need to adapt.
Makes sense to me 🙂
BTW… I’ve done plumbing and you’re right. The new flexible waterlines are great.
And as I’ve also now found, adjustable commodes are a blessing too. “Oh don’t worry, most people never have to worry about ______.” Yep, it will always be my house that can fill in that blank. The guys at Home Depot are like family now.
@Doc – LOLOLOL!
Doc, you crack me up. I’m in a public coffee shop waiting for my next meeting and reading this. I wonder if the people around me think something is wrong with me… cheers, Dan
Trust us all Dan, they know! 😉
And, most definitely, a heartfelt ‘thank you’ Dan for all your efforts in making this LF community what it is. It is such a blast to read each day, diverse and full ’round the world theory’ in action!
Just explain there’s something wrong with Doc! 😉
Wow! More please!
I am already looking forward to Part Two of this interview!
It sounds so basic, but Jay’s comments about meetings are so critical to the effective implementation of organizational vision.
I have been truly as guilty as the next person of the opposite of Jay’s suggestions to prepare people for meetings, not trap or embarrass people during meetings, and to clearly articulate what you expect, where you want to go, and what it’s going to take to get there.
Nothing takes the energy out of a meeting than the phrase “I will follow up on that” when it is an item that was on the previous meetings agenda and this meeting is supposed to be where the delivery occurs. But it certainly is a fallback we all end up at sometimes, praying it won’t sound as awful coming out of our own mouths as it does coming out of someone else’s.
This won’t work for everyone, but in many settings I took handwritten notes on the agenda and immediately made copies after the meeting and got them out to the meeting attendees – it may not have been “pretty” but it enabled everyone to have an immediate record, including action items – without the delay involved in transcribing minutes. Doesn’t work for more formal settings but works like a charm in many “work group”/”progress check” type meetings.
When Jay started talking about meetings in the context of how to get things done, I began wondering why? It doesn’t take long to realize that poorly run meetings are a major reason things don’t get done. It made perfect sense.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
Another key (forgive me if it’s already been addressed in previous comments) is a periodic “rest area” pause.
Reflect from time to time on progress being made.
Evaluate the deadlines.
Evaluate the schedules.
Test, re-test the vision. Confirm.
Touch up the picture you are painting.
Stuff gets old. Vision leaks. People get bored. So keep it fresh with “rest area” pauses.
Vision leaks…wow, so true Scott! Great tip too, thanks.
“Keep it fresh with rest” sounds like something you put in your drier to soften your clothes.. 🙂
Seriously, its odd you bring this up. Part of my conversation with Jay included his belief in healthy humor to enhance the work environment. I think you guys would like each other.
Dan, how do you know all of these incredible leaders???
James, I meet them because of social media. One contact suggests another contact…one person sends a note to another and I end up on the phone having these great conversations. Thats how it happened with Jim Parker from Southwest Airlines. Joe Tye connected me with Jim.
Also, because the blog is doing so well when book publisher and publicists send me books, I tell them I need to speak with the author and they make it happen.
Speaking of that, I’m always respectful of the time I take with people. But when I told Jay Elliot I didn’t want to take anymore of his time. He said, “No problem, I’m enjoying our conversation. I thought it was going to be another boring book interview.” 🙂
I’m having too much fun,
That’s awesome Dan.
Hmm, a new game, the 7 degrees of Dan Rockwell!
Love these interviews, keep it up! BTW, as much as like the lessons from the leaders, I admire your writing style and the way you include bits about the leader as a real person (dogs barking, chuckling, etc).
Though he did not mention it in his keys to execution, you can tell that Jay’s authenticity resonated with those he worked with, and was a key to success.
like his ideas… excited to hear the rest tomorrow!
I appreciate your effort to provide such valuable interviews of such reputed person. The points suggested are so simple and looks real that anyone can understand it. Vision, framework, expectation, meeting and relevancy are real strong pillars of leadership excellence and execution. The points suggested lead to strong execution because it connect with the people and purpose.
I think the key elements of effective plan execution are alignment and connectivity with purpose. Strong and relevant framework provide smooth platform to employee committment and engagement. The most important part is leadership action. And every action needs courage, determination and strong patiencet to face challenge and unexpected outcome. The real leadership is about being able to engage everyone in decision making process and once decision is executed, leader has to take responsibility on behalf of entire team.
Today, in the organisation, ususally success is celebrated and it becomes everybody responsibility but in case of failure it becomes individual responsibility. It is a leadership failure rather than individual failure because it is usually a practice that people follow rather than to own the reponsibility on behalf of team. They like to shift to somebody else.
I like the first point about vision.
It seems fairly obvious, but actually the biggest screw ups I have seen in my relatively small career have been caused by starting a project without a clear image of what the business wanted to achieve with it. It’s something like going abroad without a map (or a TomTom if you want to be techy).
I am also eagerly waiting for second part.Vision, Framework ,knowing and relating to the team are some of the great points.Larry and Ram Charan also gives good insight in Execution discipline via their book Execution ,Discipline of getting things done.Execution is real tough job.Very few people really master it.
I heard consistency in Jim’s 5 short points on the components of developing your plan. For those of us that don’t yet have those years of experience behind us, it’s reassuring to know that if we just stay consistent, the experience will come.
Awesome stuff Dan! The “experts” who have already “done that” always tell us the fundamentals of keeping it simple. We just can’t overlook the basics. It reminds me of Vince Lombardi sitting his players down every year saying: “Guys, this is a football.” It could be offensive to skilled NFL accomplished players. But if we take Jay’s simple advice and remained committed, we’ll all take it to another level.
Also, did he convince you to go Mac or are you already Mac? 🙂
Looking forward to tomorrow. Keep up the great work.
The difference between excellence and average is the desire and ability to execute the basics. Thats why people like Jay succeed. Although, I’ll add hear like I already did in another reply, at first, I was surprised to hear Jay talking about meetings until I remembered how much poorly run meetings roadblock progress.
Don’t tell anyone but I’m a PC.
Best to you,
I don’t hate meetings. I hate poorly ran meetings.
Getting all the right people in a room or on the phone is essential to cross communication.
I’ll be back tomorrow for more!
Right on Matt! Well said. Problem is, I think we’ve all spent too much time in meeting where leaders love their own voices and the content should have be disseminated via email or an intranet. … cheers, Dan
Looking forward to reading the rest of the interview. Thanks for your passion and the ability to glean from your interests.