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Rhythm Blog | Patrick Thean
by Patrick Thean and the Rhythm Team
It’s time to plan your fourth quarter and finish the year strong! One of the reasons plans fail is due to poorly defined goals and priorities. Most people think that they have finished their plan when they have had good discussions during quarterly planning sessions and come up with their top 5 priorities for the quarter. “Hey, we are all aligned and ready for the quarter!” Not so fast. You need to make sure that your goals and priorities are well defined and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time bound).
During Q4, many companies begin to think and plan for the next year. To gain insight into the process and importance of planning for the upcoming year, my team interviewed me. After all, I am an Amazon best-selling author of two books: Rhythm and Predictable Results, and I've helped hundreds of companies with this process.
Question: Patrick, so annual planning time is rolling around again. Are you still looking forward to helping companies develop their plans, and if so why?
Patrick: Oh, I love this part of the year, when people are thinking and planning for the next year. It is a good practice to take stock, learn what went well and what did not go so well, and dream about how to do much better next year. This is a very important process that can really influence whether you have a great year or not.
A new quarter is upon us. It is time to learn from the quarter that just ended and develop a killer plan to end the year strong. I believe in the power of planning short 13-Week quarters. This helps you to visualize how the quarter should progress, and what the outcomes should be at the end of the quarter. It also protects you against failure. If something is not getting done, you are forced to account for it at the end of a quarter. You can’t wait till the end of the year and get blindsided by projects that are not getting done. If you only look at your execution plan once a year, there is less accountability and even with the best intentions, it is easy for things to fall behind and pile up into the fourth quarter.
Many companies begin their annual planning process by first creating their annual budget. Then they bring the budget to their annual planning session. This process has some inherent limitations:
How badly do you want to achieve your goals? Many people quit too early, at the first sign of distress or the first pangs of pain. Tesla has been single-mindedly focused on delivering a large number of Model 3 EVs (Electric Vehicles) in Q3. CEO Elon Musk stated that this would be the strongest delivery quarter ever! And it was.
Tesla entered Q3 swinging for the fences. Elon Musk said they went from production hell to delivery logistics hell. Their story is straight out of the book The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. The Goal talks about constraint based planning, the idea that your manufacturing production is really a flow, and that there will always be a bottleneck in your system. And when you solve that bottleneck or constraint, another bottleneck shows up in your system. Two quarters ago, Tesla was fighting hard to produce 5,000 cars a week. Their bottleneck was in manufacturing. Then after they solved it, the bottleneck moved to their ability to deliver cars.
My previous blog shared about how people issues might be mistaken for execution issues. There are a number of reasons why it is difficult to solve people problems in growing companies. Most of these reasons come from an emotional place of fear. Fear paralyzes us even though logically we know that people issues don’t go away with time. They don’t work themselves out. In fact, they usually become much worse. These baby elephants grow quickly into large elephants.
“Patrick, my strategy sucks! I am not getting the results and growth that I want. What should I do?” I get this question quite often. On the surface, it appears that your growth strategy is not working. When I ask a few more questions, often I find the strategy or Winning Move is just fine. It’s actually the execution of the growth strategy that is flawed. Most entrepreneurs suffer from the disease of “not being able to say 'NO' to a good idea." So we overeat from the buffet of opportunity, and have too many important initiatives.