Welcome officially to Q4 2015. Time flies when your busy with your head down working hard each day both at work and at home. So much so we can go a long time without really stopping to look at where we have been, where we want to go and whether we are on track to get there. But this is an ideal time both personally and professionally to take a little time to Go SLOW to Go FAST. But what do I mean by that? In golf I always thought I had to swing harder or faster to hit it further and sometimes I would get lucky and that approach would result in a great shot. Then again more times than not it resulted in worse shots. So I started taking lessons and one of the first things the instructor told me was to Go SLOW to Go FURTHER. Then he told me about finding a rhythm for my swing. He said I needed to see the shot I wanted to hit, pick the right club and stay in control to execute it. Not harder or faster just better planning and executions would make me better. And believe it or not when I do that I actually hit better shots. His teaching got me thinking about life in general and how we are so busy working HARD and going FAST trying to move one more step forward that we forget we need to slow down and plan sometimes. I thought I would take this space to walk you through how we Go SLOW to Go FAST with our quarterly and annual planning.
For me it doesn’t matter if you start with planning the next week, month, quarter or year the first thing you have to do is sit down and review where you are and where you have been. You need to celebrate what has worked and evaluate what hasn’t. If you are doing this personally this might be just you or you and your spouse. If it is for business you might be doing this with your owners, managers or leadership group. I think doing any of this with more than one person really amplifies the impact. This isn’t about a pity session about how things or people have failed. This is to truly see what good you have done in the past that has gotten you to this point and evaluate what you have been doing that you need to improve or change. When we do it we use what is called the “4 Helpful Lists”; What missing, What’s Wrong, What is Working, and What’s Confused. This is sometimes called a Start, Stop, Continue exercise. Again not to assign blame but to get the items out of your head and onto paper where you can see them and use them to help plan what you do going forward.
Next you have to decided on the rhythm for your planning and evaluation. I am going to assume you have the big items already addressed; Mission, Values and Vision; and that you would likely build a 1 year plan and setup a quarterly rhythm of review and goal setting. I don’t like annual goals as much as annual metrics. This is because annual goals are really big things that can get you swinging to hard or fast. With annual metrics you are working toward numbers that you can then break down into small quarterly goals that if you miss one of them you have time to adjust to make up. These metrics will likely include some financial items (Sales, Profit, Expenses), some internal growth items (Staffing, Products/Solutions, Organizational), some external items (Client, Community, Partner) in some mix. They will be BIG items that will need to be broken down into SMART goals for each quarter, month, and maybe even week. The exact ones only matter to you in response to your MVV and your review of the past and where you want to go in the future. With an ideal of where you want to be in the not too distant future you can move into what you want to do over the next quarter.
Each quarter we look at our annual plans and define goals for that quarter we need to execute to be 1/4 the way to the annual plan. These are normally what we call “company goals” but may appear to be goals for just one department. Even if for example we set a goal of hiring a new engineer, we share this goal company wide and the reason it supports our annual goals. We expect the entire team to get involved in executing that goal. With a goal like hiring we might see our VP of Sales ask his team to each submit one candidate they have met that might be a good candidate for us to reach out to. This would be considered a departmental goal for the quarter. Not all departments need a goal for each company goal directly. In some cases it is more of just the team in that department being aware of the goal so they can support it more indirectly. Again you want any goal you put down to be SMART as it is really the only way to ensure you can execute it. From here you should also have each department define their overall goals for the quarter and if possible goals for individuals that bring those goals down to the lowest task level and make them more meaningful for each person. Recently I have read a book called Traction that talks about getting to a point where everyone “has a number” which is really a goal that they can tie uphill which ensures everyone is connected to the success of the team.
Once you have your annual and quarterly plans complete you need to do 2 more things. The first is share them with the entire team (in the case of doing this for yourself maybe the family or a friend). This ensures you have communicated what is important and what must be done over the year and next quarter. I would suggest not doing this as part of another meeting the first time. A specific meeting to discuss your annual plan and the first quarter works best. From there you might make updates of the prior quarter and the plans for the next quarter as part of a quarterly all hands meeting. In the communication you need to really lay out the details and reasons for the goals and plans along with how they tie to the MVV of the company. If you have done the job of getting the entire team behind your MVV then they will be able to see how these specific goals and plans work with both the company and their long term plans. The second thing you need to do is setup a rhythm of updates from each owner (Did I mention that each goal both company and departmental must have just 1 owner that is accountable for it) of the goal to the team so that everyone knows whether it is “on track” or “off track”. If it is “off track” and reported frequently enough you can work as a team to take steps to get it back “on track” before the end of the period or take steps to adjust overall plans before they become critical to the success.
So to bring this back to the Go SLOW to Go FAST, you have to take the time to plan and communicate in business if you want to intentionally achieve your goals and not just be working FAST and HARD day to day in hopes they happen. This applies to your personal life also. So do you take enough time to Go SLOW to Go FAST? If so let me know how you do it. If you plan to begin feel free to share your plans with me. I think we are more successful in achieving our goals when we put them down in writing and even more when we share them with others.