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A vital enabler for digital businesses is to operate towards concrete and near term targets. Software development is today lean and operating with 2 or 4 weeks long sprints. Other parts of the organization are likely operating towards yearly goals. across a spectrum of measures. Here you will learn how to transform to quarterly horizons in 5 quarters.
A new framework guiding execution
You should consider attacking four factors. The first is to reduce the cycle times. Break down yearly goals into quarterly goals. Turn quarterly follow ups into monthly. Move from monthly progress meetings to weekly. Length of each meeting reduced to not increase the total time invested in progress meetings. The higher frequency drive intensity.
The second is to restrict focus for each quarter to no more than 5 areas. Instead of 10-20 measures monitored during a whole year. 90 days of focus add more value than 365 days of ambition. Review focus each quarter.
The third is about how you evolve your ability to lead and your team members evolve their ability to execute. It will not happen overnight for neither leader nor team members. Lead your team with one new element you introduce as a leader each quarter. Refine it during the quarter to s point where you can delegate to the team and team members the next quarter.
Step 1 – Top down definition of 5 quarterly priorities
Focus on get going immediately. Leader define 5 priorities for the first quarter. Increase frequency of meetings direct from start. All time in progress meetings should focus on the 5 priorities.
Results to expect in this phase is focus on essentials and a group starting to develop towards a team. As a leader you develop your ability to set crisp goals, how to activate goals in your team and coaching your team for success.
Step 2 – Team defining priorities and quarterly plan for the team.
Part of the approach is to let your team grow with responsibility in each step. If you defined the goals top-down in the first quarter your team is ready to take an active role. Defining the five priority areas for your second quarter.
As you can in this stage introduce a quarterly plan. A plan laying out important milestones for the first, second and third month. And starting to steer your team members to contributing in 1-3 areas during the quarter.
Results to expect in the quarter is a team on top of the quarterly priorities. As a leader you your skills in how well you can define a 90-day plan get tested. And how well you secure your team share the priorities across the team. Each activity in your team plan is allocated to a team member.
Step-3 – Individual quarterly contribution plans.
At this stage the team goal definition is a piece of cake. The team understand the team activities. Your team and you want to support all team members to define a personal plan for their contributions during the quarter. A plan focused on supporting 2 out of the 5 areas driven by the team.
Results to expect is a better correlation between team ambition and individual activities. Plans tend to be front loaded with planned activities and back loaded with actual results. By sharing the team’s goal and priorities with peer organizations you increase your influence. Operating with clear priorities stimulate your peer organizations to follow. The added benefit is the commitment to the priorities is becoming stronger from your team.
Step-4 – Share first individual plans with peer organizations
Your team is now mature enough to start sharing the individual plans with peer organizations. Once you take down plans to a personal and shared level you can start to get great feedback already at the planning stage. Be open to sharing your plans before executing, and you increase the likelihood of focusing on the right activities
Results to expect at this stage is more confident team members daring to take input on their plans. Not all team members might be ready to share their plans. And as long as they learn from team members who are ready this is fine. How fast we are ready to share our pans varies across your team members. Encourage your team members to refine their plans based on previous quarters plans. At this stage you as leader are lobbying towards your peer organizations to adopt a similar approach. It is first when all teams work with 5 quarterly priorities you will reach the full potential.
Step 5 – Team and all members operate with share plans
Here the team and your team members operate with clear priorities, a clear team plan and solid individual plans. And expect a few more quarters until you have moved from yearly to quarterly execution targets. Easy said and perhaps a journey of 6-8 quarters for most team to master.
Questions for you and your team
- Which goals and priorities do we steer towards today – Focus on articulating the horizon for your main goals and the amount of goals and priorities.
- How do we break down the goals towards goals for team and individuals today – focus on the accuracy in break down and nature of follow-up.
- Why do we want to work with shorter horizons for our goals – the reason varies from team to team
- What define the amount of priorities we can handle – see 5 as a maximum rather than a guideline.
- What is our maturity level to operate with agile goals – leverage your strongest team members and their experiences.
- Which proven templates can we use – Expect it to be hard to start from scratch.
Additional reading suggestions
- Get your team to do what it says it is going to do [ARTICLE] – by Harvard Business Review
- Why your goals are too long [BLOGPOST] – by Time Management Ninja
- Stop thinking long-term. Execute Strategy 90 days at a time [ARTICLE] – by Entrepreneur
- A guide to evaluate your priorities and set goals [ARTICLE] – by Forbes