To Execute Well, Run a 13-Week Race Every Quarter

By Patrick Thean

    Fri, Aug 30, 2013 @ 07:53 AM Annual & Quarterly Planning, Effective Meetings

    Every quarter is a thirteen-week race. It goes by fast. Before you know it, the quarter is over. And then the year is over. You are left with the question, “Did we accomplish what we set out to accomplish?”

    To win the thirteen-week race, you need to do two things. (1) You need a plan for the quarter that your team is excited to execute and that maps a clear course to achieving crital goals—for the company, for departments, and for individuals. Now your team is focused and aligned. (2) Get out of their way. Don’t distract them during the quarter with unplanned priorities or the next great idea. Do these two things and you will win your 13-week race.

    The two are really dependent on each other. In order to "get our of their way," you really need a good plan that everyone understands and can be excited about. And your plan is really only a great plan if you commit to getting out our their way as compared to changing the plan by adding new priorities that come up during the quarter. That's why I love the idea of a 13-Week Race!  If you view every quarter as a short 13-Week Race, you are more likely to run the race and then plan for the next race. Thirteen weeks is a very short time. Remain focused for 13-Weeks, then come up for air and plan the next 13-Weeks. You are much more likely to achieve your goals if you run a tight and focused 13-Week Race. Everytime you allow new priorities to interrupt your team during the quarter, you run the risk of them getting distracted and only partially achieving their goals for the quarter.

    To Execute Well, Run a 13-Week Race Every Quarter

    So, how do we stay disciplined and focused on the 13-Week Race? 

    • Commit to a handful of priorities (no more than 5).
    • Get them up on a dashboard for all to see and collaborate on.
    • Establish a weekly rhythm to review progress and discuss actions needed to stay on track and accomplish these 5 priorities on your public dashboard.

    Use a dashboard to help you. A dashboard is the perfect tool to help you communicate progress throughout the company and hold people accountable while preserving relationships. Use dashboards as helpful and actionable tools, not to club people on the head! They should be used to identify problems that need to be solved and gather real insights about the company’s progress. When dashboards are used well, you will speed up your execution and reduce mistakes. And 90 percent of the success of using dashboards is determining what should go into them and how your team uses them to solve problems as a team. If you are not tracking your progress every week on your KPIs and priorities, how do you know if you are making progress on the right things? As part of your Plan Rhythm, you should should discuss and update these 3 dashboards every week:

    1. Company dashboard with the company's Top 5 priorities
    2. Your Department's dashboard (if you run a department or a team) with your Top 5 priorities
    3. Personal Dashboard that has your personal top 5 priorities

    Don't be shy. Share your dashboards. If you hide them, your teammates cannot help you. The decision to share goals on dashboards and post these dashboards publicly speeds up execution. This promotes transparency and having candid conversations.  Make sure that you set up your first quarter 13-week race during your Annual Planning session.

    Don't use accountability with dashboards to embarrass people and bash heads at your weekly meetings. Instead, use accountability to focus on the priorities and problems on hand. Focus on the priorities, not the people! 

    Use a Business Management System with dashboards to automate and provide you with the discipline needed to have a strong weekly rhythm. A good system will provide you with a simple way to build your weekly rhythm of reviewing, discussing and doing the work based on insights coming from your dashboards. 

    Lastly, a common pitfall I see is for companies to be overly dependent on technology and software to provide status for their priorities and metrics. Accountability and ownership of priorities tends to go out the window the minute a robot provides the status. The important discussions stop happening and dashboards go from being active catalysts to being passive trackers. Don't do that. It is quite alright for a robot to calculate your progress. But, I always encourage a human to provide the actual status. Pause, think and provide the status. And, if the status is Red or Yellow, feel the pain. Then be motivated to develop corrective action plans and be prepared to discuss and seek advice at your upcoming weekly meeting.

    Rhythm Systems Quarterly Planning Agenda

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