Failure-Proof Your Growth

3 of 3 on Annual Planning and Strategy

President Dwight Eisenhower is famous for saying “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”* The act of planning is central to flawless execution but your plan itself is of very fleeting value. So how do you ensure your execution is failure-proof and will create some real results this year?

Apollo 13: Deke Slayton (in black shirt, left of center) director of flight crew operations, and Chester M. Lee shake hands in Mission Control, while Rocco Petrone watches Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell on the screen.

Apollo 13: Deke Slayton (in black shirt, left of center) director of flight crew operations, and Chester M. Lee shake hands in Mission Control, while Rocco Petrone watches Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell on the screen.

First, once you’ve aligned your leaders and created a plan for the year, you’ll want to kick it off with the whole company in a meeting (or series of meetings) where you share your thinking, your vision and plans, to engage the larger team. You open such a meeting with the successes from the last year and the key learnings. Then you share the targets and priorities for the coming year, taking time to answer all questions. You finish with the theme for the first quarter, including the goal and intended rewards for success.

Once you’ve kicked it off and ensure everyone understands the plan and the goals, you want to employ the three main disciplines of great execution:

  1. Priorities are the first execution discipline. We start prioritizing with the annual planning meeting but then we must continue updating priorities every day, week, month and quarter. You’ll never get everything done in this lifetime, but if you are always aligned as a team on the #1 thing, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish. Every day you should consider and select the top priority for the day and then do that first. Make sure that the top priority is aligned with your goals for the year and the quarter.
  2. Metrics that matter are the next execution discipline. Former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner reminds us that “people don’t do what you expect but what you inspect.” You need to have a few good measurements for everything that you care about, but not so many that you ignore them. Metrics are how you inspect what you expect, and you’ll want to create displays or dashboards to keep them front and center.Each priority and objective should have a metric and each leader should have two primary metrics (leading and lagging). Your business should have a few top level metrics for things like customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, leads/pipeline, margin or profit, and progress on long-term strategic objectives. The final thing to remember about metrics is that they should all be balanced. So, if you have a leading sales metric, you should probably have one for staffing or production. That way you are keeping revenue in balance with expenses.
  3. Rhythms are the regular meeting habits that keep your team aligned and connected to the plan and current performance. Your plan will quickly lose relevance as market conditions, competitors, and your own performance evolve. Each quarter you’ll want to update the plan, and create a new theme around the top priority for the quarter. Then you want to meet monthly to track progress on your priorities and to solve problems together. A weekly meeting is the right frequency to look at numbers that don’t change daily, and a daily huddle meeting is your chance to synchronize your team and select top priorities for the day. 

The Rockefeller Habits checklist is a great tool to assess your execution habits and pick something to work on with your team. After reviewing this list, pick only one thing to work on at one time. Implement one of your weakest areas for a few months before tackling the next thing. 

Download the checklist right here: https://scalingupbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/MRH-Checklist-HT.pdf

*Eisenhower actually learned it from someone else http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=10951

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