Most organizations have plenty of IQ. Never before in history have so much talent and creativity and raw intellect poured into the workforce. A lot of “smarts” goes into the development of organizational strategies these days, for strategy is the traditional focus of the best and brightest. Part of the CLO’s job is to recruit, grow and retain lots of IQ. But you need much more than IQ to get results.
There’s also a need for EQ, or emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman has popularized EQ as an essential trait of good organizational leadership. An organization with high EQ is guided by a vision that’s emotionally magnetic and galvanizes people to make their best efforts.
So no lack of smarts or vision. But what about XQ, or execution intelligence? Smart, highly motivated people can and do fail to achieve the vision they’ve set for themselves, and about 70 percent of organizational failures are due to poor execution. What we need now is more XQ execution know-how.
A recent study of more than 11,000 people gauged the XQ of the U.S. workforce. Just as an IQ test uncovers gaps in intelligence, an XQ test measures the execution gap the gap between setting a goal and actually achieving it. The study, commissioned by FranklinCovey Co. and Harris Interactive, was carried out in October and November 2002. The results are alarming:
- No clarity: Do organizations set clear goals? Only one in six workers thinks so, and fewer than half say they understand what their companies are trying to achieve. In follow-up studies, fewer than 15 percent can list their employers most important goals.
- No commitment: Do people feel committed to the goals of the organizations they work for? Only about one in four feels intensely focused, and only about one in 10 fully embraces the goals.
- No line of sight between organizational goals and the work people do: Only one in five has clearly defined work goals, and one in 10 clearly understands how his work relates to the organization’s top priorities. With all the talk about “cascading goals,” it’s clear that such a thing happens rarely.
- No empowerment: People want to contribute to achieving the important goals of the organization but cannot because they are eaten up by less important priorities. By their own account, people spend only 49 percent of their time on crucial organizational goals. One hour of three is spent on urgent but irrelevant tasks, while one hour in five is wasted dealing with pointless bureaucracy.
- No synergy: New goals require new ways of thinking and working. The best ideas and solutions come from true synergy. But synergistic collaboration is sorely lacking in most organizations. Less than a third of all workers feel they can even express themselves candidly at work, much less achieve synergy.
- No accountability: Only about half of all workers report that they feel accountable for performance to goal. They are rarely if ever called upon to report progress. Only a third feel any responsibility to meet budgetary commitments. The consequence? Serious issues fall through the cracks and errors go uncorrected.
Organizations that execute with excellence focus on a very few clear objectives and align the focus of every worker and work group to those few goals. The XQ study opens up serious questions: Can an organization execute its goals when its people are unclear on the goals, uncommitted to them, unempowered to achieve them and unaccountable for them?
Got smart people? Got a vision? Good for you. Now, what about your XQ?
Stephen R. Covey, Ph.D., is co-founder and vice chairman of FranklinCovey, a leading global professional services firm. Stephen is also the author of the best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.E-mail Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.