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February 12, 2020

It’s a new year, filled with new plans, hopes, dreams and expectations. As a business owner and leader, you’ve invested the time and energy to create annual business plans, strategies and budgets, and now the hard work is behind you, right? Wrong. In reality, the single biggest factor of whether you achieve your annual plan is based on one thing: Execution. The discipline to execute and get the right things done separates great teams from good teams. Sadly, Cincinnati Bengals fans know this all too well after the 2019 football season. Well-conceived game plans don’t win football games, consistent execution does. Or as Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” In his book The 12 Week Year, author Brian Morgan writes, “The marketplace only rewards those ideas that get implemented. Leaders can be smart and have access to lots of information and great ideas; they can be well connected, work hard, and have lots of natural talent, but in the end, they have to execute. Execution is the single greatest market differentiator. Great companies and individuals execute better than their competition.” Organizations that consistently achieve their plans typically focus their efforts on a handful of mission-critical initiatives and break them down into bite-sized chunks. In his bestselling book, Traction, Gino Wickman refers to these shorter-term priorities as “Rocks.” The concept of rocks actually comes from Stephen Covey’s book First Things First. Picture a glass cylinder on a table. Next to the cylinder are rocks, gravel, sand and a glass of water. Imagine the glass cylinder as all the time you have in a day. The rocks are your main priorities, the gravel represents your day-to-day responsibilities, the sand represents interruptions and the water is everything else that you get hit with during your workday. By putting the big stuff in first (rocks), the daily responsibilities second (gravel), the interruptions third (sand) and then everything else (water), it all fits. Most importantly the rocks get your first and best attention to complete. A leadership team that utilizes Rocks operates in a 90-Day World as Wickman describes it; evaluating, establishing and achieving business priorities every 90 days. This exercise of giving weight to the most important things drives clarity and alignment of the leaders and the organization. Each Rock is assigned to a single person to own the responsibility for ensuring it gets done. This shorter-term agreement and focus on the most important items dramatically increases the probability of achieving the desired outcome, in turn, achieving the annual plan. Organizations that utilize the methodology in Traction, called the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS®, focus on just three to seven 90-day Company Rocks. Each Rock must be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Leadership teams review and discuss the Rocks each week to determine whether they’re “on track” or “off track.” This creates awareness and accountability among the team so that people don’t get distracted by the day-to-day stuff and forget to focus on what’s really important. This year, consider how focusing on less might actually help you accomplish more. Break your organization’s annual plan down into prioritized, bite-sized chunks and hold yourself and your leaders accountable every week for 90 days to execute the plan.

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