I recently facilitated a client’s quarterly planning session. They really do a great job, having the discipline to spend two days planning every quarter, and then having an execution plan that gives them the confidence to execute a strong and successful 13 week race for the quarter. Why do they need to spend two days planning every quarter? Is there really that much to plan and talk about? Do they really need two days to figure out what they need to do every quarter?
They do not need two days to figure how what they need to do every quarter. They need the two days to discuss how they are going to get done what they need to do, who is going to do what, and what resources are needed for them to be successful. They have execution-oriented discussions. Everyone gets on the same page about how to achieve the company’s plan. They discuss and get clear on what tradeoffs they are making and avoid getting blindsided by resource requests in the middle of the quarter.
So how do you plan and execute a successful 13-Week Race®?
1) Agree on a main focus for the quarter. You might already use a theme to help communicate your quarter. That is good. Now let’s take it up a notch. Does your theme reinforce a main focus for the company? Or is it just a fun marketing thing? Did your CEO declare what the main focus is? Or did you arrive at it with good discussions that considered your biggest opportunities and challenges for the quarter? And most of all, did your whole team agree that it was the right focus?
Tip: Use your theme well. Many companies lose a great opportunity by only having a fun theme. Turbo charge your fun theme by connecting the dots to what needs to be executed and accomplished. This creates focus.
2) Get aligned on your main focus. Take the time to slow down and have discussions to agree on your main focus for the quarter. If you have accomplished agreement, now ask the question of what alignment means and how do you get there? Actions speak louder than words. So let’s check your actions. These questions should help you test your focus and where your energy is about to be deployed for the quarter:
- Do you have five or less company priorities? Less is more. Stick to five or less.
- For each team member, what are their top five priorities and are they aligned to executing the company’s top five priorities?
- Check your number one priority. Is there enough focus and energy on this priority? Check this by asking how many team members are working on it, and how many individual priorities are aligned to achieve it?
Tip: Alignment means that your team has priorities that support and help to execute the main focus of your quarter. I call this the Energy Test. Our Rhythm clients can use the patented EnergyMap® shown below to test for alignment. Every square represents a priority from a team member. if you are aligned, your team should have more priorities (or squares) on your number one priority. You can also confirm if each of the company’s top five priorities have enough energy and attention focused on it to have strong execution.
3) Discuss how to execute top priorities. Many people think their planning is completed as soon as they have identified what the top priorities are. They are wrong. Now that you know what your top priorities are, you still need two things. (1) Define your success criteria for each priority, and (2) Write down what your actions or steps are to actually get the work done. This is your execution path forward. If you cannot write down your execution path forward, you may not know how to get your priority accomplished. You have got to be able to see it in order to accomplish it.
4) Clear the path. Discuss how you will execute and see if there are any trade offs or obstacles in the way of your achieving your priorities. If you can identify these obstacles now, and discuss solutions for them with everyone in the room, you will be able to cut out hallway meetings. Clarity up front and clearing your execution path will save you time and energy. You will end up with more effective as well as more efficient execution during the quarter.
Breakthrough execution is not something that happens by chance. It takes focus and commitment and discipline to execute well and with purpose.