Execution by Larry Bossidy is a great book.
These three paragraphs from the book summarize it pretty well:
Here is the fundamental problem: people think of execution as the tactical side of the business, sometimes leaders delegate while they focus on the perceived “bigger” issues. This idea is completely wrong. Execution is not just tactics—it is a discipline and a system. It has to be built into a company’s strategy, its goals, and its culture. And the leader of the organization must be deeply engaged in it. He cannot delegate its substance. Many business leaders spend vast amounts of time learning and promulgating the latest management techniques. But their failure to understand and practice execution negates the value of almost all they learn and preach. Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability. It includes making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization’s capabilities, linking strategy to operations and the people who are going to implement the strategy, synchronizing those people and their various disciplines, and linking rewards to outcomes. It also includes mechanisms for changing assumptions as the environment changes and upgrading the company’s capabilities to meet the challenges of an ambitious strategy. In it’s most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it. Most companies don’t face reality very well. As we shall see, that’s the basic reason they can’t execute. Much has been written about Jack Welch’s style of management – especially his toughness and bluntness, which some people call ruthlessness. We would argue that the core of his management legacy is that he forced realism into all of GE’s management process, making it a model of an execution culture.
Similar to my comments on 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, this organizational character starts at the top, starts early, and is communicated and enforced rigorously.