As a Business Coach that offers business plan advice services I have created and reviewed hundreds of quarterly business plans. What I am finding is that companies are doing a poor job of creating their plans, and it is costing them serious growth in revenue and profits.
We were preparing our content for our next Four DecisionsTM public workshops for another client which are developed from “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish. A differentiator in this process is the One-Page Plan and the fact that we do not just stop our planning after setting the annual priorities. The most successful leaders realize that to move their businesses forward they need to move on their biggest priorities immediately. As a result, the key drive in making sure annual initiatives are achieved is what you do over the first 90 days. This may sound basic, but the fact is that most organizations fail to achieve their annual initiatives, and a primary reason is failing to master the quarter. I believe procrastination is the biggest issue. Leaders typically underestimate the amount of effort, time, and number of obstacles they are going to encounter in order to achieve their initiatives. As a result, they get started too late, if at all.
In order to help clients master their quarter, our business plan advice services include helping them establish their quarterly “Rocks.” These are the 3 to 5 most important priorities for the company, the ones that must be done in the next 90 days. By helping the management team agree on these priorities, you can increase intensity and focus on what matters most for your business. Many leaders try to make everything important and thus nothing is. The more you can focus your people around specific priorities, the more traction you will gain toward accelerating the growth of your business.
“Rock” is a term used interchangeably for “initiative” for a very intentional reason. You may have read about this in Stephen Covey’s book First Things First or seen the following exercise done in a leadership or time-management training program you have attended. Picture a glass jar on a table. Next to it you have large rocks, gravel, sand, and water. The leadership trainer typically fills the jar with the big rocks first and then asks the group if it is full. Everyone says yes. The leadership trainer then pours gravel into the jar and shakes it around to fill in all the holes. He then asked the audience “is this jar full?” Now of course there is reluctance to answer. The trainer then takes the sand and pours it into the cracks in the jar. He then asks again, “Is this jar full?” The same happens with the water. What the trainer wants you to consider is that the rocks are your main priorities, the gravel represents your day-to-day responsibilities, the sand interruptions, and the water is everything else that you get hit with during your workday. If you are like most people, you pour the water in first, the sand in second, the gravel in third, and rocks last. The lesson is that if you do not put your rocks in first there will never be room for them.
When setting your quarterly Rocks, here are a few things to consider:
- Less is more – 80 / 20 Rule here. Remember that you are going to have water, sand and gravel. What “Rocks” will give you is 80% of the impact you need to propel your business forward.
- Linkage to Annual Priorities – Ideally your “Rocks” should be linked to your annual priorities.
- More Focus on Higher Priorities – Make sure that you have more activities going toward bigger / higher impact “Rocks.”
- Communicate your “Rocks” – Make sure that everyone knows what the “Rocks” are and that their personal priorities are aligned with the company priorities.
- Track Progress – You should be discussing status and progress on your “Rocks” weekly in order to make sure that they are getting the proper attention and resources. At the end of the quarter it is easy to rationalize why someone did not get their part done. In my experience, they are only excuses, and actions could have been taken that could have changed circumstances.
Quarterly planning is not as easy as it appears. There are some tough trade-offs. Many times it is hard to see the excuses as all the members of the team are stuck in the same sand and water. This is where good business plan advice services can make a difference.