A new quarter is starting. It is time to discuss, prioritize and choose your top priorities for the new quarter. How do you do this? How do you decide what are the best ideas and priorities to execute?
Prioritizing is not about ranking from 1 to 10 and doing them all (or failing to do the last few). Rather, prioritizing is about gaining focus on the most critical areas of your business. To achieve focus, you need a few big things to focus on, not a list of 10 things to try and get to. As Yoda in Star Wars said, “Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.” Trying to work on all 10 things does not give you focus. Saying “No” to items 4 through 10 frees up your brain to focus on your top 3 priorities.
So what are the right two to three things to determine your priority areas for the next quarter for appraisal? In chapter 2 of my book, Rhythm, I discuss how to use an objective and simple way to sort through ideas and choose the right ideas to build winning strategies on. It is an objective framework to discuss subjective ideas and to keep our discussions and decisions from becoming too emotional. Your best ideas are the ones that will give you the strongest revenue growth for the least investment of resources. I use a simple framework with two questions to rate each idea:
- What is the impact on your revenue growth over the next three to five years? Rate it from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest impact.
- How easy is it for your team to execute on this idea? By “easy” I mean can it be implemented with current resources? Will it require little additional capital? Is it synergistic with other projects? Rate it from 1 to 10. The more difficult or expensive it is to develop and execute, the lower the rating. This means 1 is the least easy, and 10 is the easiest.
Once you’ve scored your potential moves, plot them on the four-quadrant winning moves chart shown below. It is very important to apply the same scale of Impact and Easy to rate all your ideas. This provides a consistent and objective framework to discuss and choose the right ideas to execute.
So let’s apply this to choosing the right priorities for a winning quarter!
You can apply this same method to help you prioritize and choose short-term goals and priorities as well. Many of our clients use this method as a framework to discuss and decide on their top priorities for the quarter.
Over the last decade, we have facilitated hundreds quarterly planning sessions for clients using this framework with remarkable success. Success, in this case, meant the following:
- The companies chose their top 3 ideas from a list of more than 10 to 20 ideas.
- They enjoyed the process. Different opinions were discussed openly and objectively. There were no losers in the discussions. Only the ideas that were not chosen were lost. All the humans were safe!
- Every team member was excited and bought into the top 3 ideas. In other words, they achieved alignment.
- They were confident that they were about to embark on a winning quarter.
Here’s how to use this framework for choosing priorities for your quarter.
Step 1: Begin with the end in mind. What problem or opportunity would like to focus on?
Step 2: Brainstorm or collect the ideas and potential priorities.
- 5 minutes: Start with independent work. Each person should write down his or her ideas.
- 20 minutes: Now, as a team, discuss the ideas. Narrow the list down to the top 10 ideas. Use a voting process. Give each person 3 votes. Count up the votes and narrow your ideas down to the top 10.
Step 3: Rank your Top 10 and view them in the four quadrants.
- Rate the Impact of each idea.
- Rate how easy it is to implement.
- Plot it on the 4-quadrant chart (Or as one client says, “4 block it!") Your rating and plot on the 4-quadrant chart should look something like the example below:
Step 4: Discuss, debate and agree.
When choosing your top 3 ideas, use the chart to help you. But, it does not mean that you should automatically choose the High Impact and Easiest ideas (Top right quadrant). This is an objective framework to guide your discussions and decision. But charts don’t make decisions; people do. There may be strong and strategic reasons to go after an idea in the top left quadrant - The High Impact and Less Easy quadrant. You just can’t afford very many of these because they take more effort or resources. Consider these High Impact Less Easy ideas when they give you a strategic advantage against your competition.
Priorities for next quarter examples:
- Increase sales by 5 percent
- Decrease costs by 5 percent
- Increase our NPS score by 10 percent
- Update the 3-5 year strategic plan
- Cleanse the CRM database
- Have the sales team take training to increase revenue by 15% next year
- Write three blog posts on my area of expertise
Choose well. Say “No” to the rest, and have a great Winning Quarter! If you don't know where to start, you can download our quarterly planning agenda or see if it makes sense to hire a strategic facilitator to help you get your quarterly priorities and long-term strategy aligned.
If you have ideas for great priority areas for next quarter, please share them in the comments; we'd love to hear from you!
Want to learn more about Quarterly Planning? Check out these additional quarterly planning resources:
Rhythm Systems Quarterly Planning Resource Center