Are you executing Quarterly?

Time flies.

Sure, there’s the same 24 hours in a day for all of us and realistically time doesn’t actually change, but it often feels like it does. (And for whatever reason, that feeling is more pronounced the older you get…).

As an example, I’m currently writing this towards the end of March, the end of the 1st quarter of the year, and it feels like the first 3 months have just flown by.

Did you start the year with big plans? Did you map out your top priorities, projects and plans for the year? Unless you’re a master of execution, it’s likely that you’re starting to see some things slip.

Unexpected challenges came up during the last couple of months.

Some of the projects were harder than you thought they would be.

There’s never enough time in the day to actual get things done.

Whatever the situation, the bottom line is that most of us are not getting nearly as much done as we’d planned on, or as we’d like to.


Try this – A Quarterly Focus

One of the benefits of doing a monthly business book review is getting the chance to really dig into a lot of great business books. And one of the things that many of those books recommend is the idea of using a consistent 90 day execution and planning cycle (quarterly execution).

It turns out that we (humans) are wired for a relatively short attention span, so if you set up a project that needs to get done by the end of the year, the natural inclination is to hold off on that project until you’re close to the end of the year. Subconsciously we feel like we have lots of time, so we procrastinate… or at least prioritize the urgent day to day work over the important project work.

Alternatively, if you make everything a top priority and due in the next couple of weeks, then nothing will get done because it’s not realistic. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority and the team will stop paying attention.

A better answer is to break out your projects into 90 day ‘chunks’. It’s enough time that you can get real, challenging projects done (or at least good sized pieces of them) but it’s short enough that there is a real sense of urgency to keep the priority high.

The other thing to keep in mind to make this work is that you also need to limit the number of projects you’re trying to get done every quarter. As part of their extensive research into their book ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution‘, the Franklin Covey team discovered that once you get more than 2 or 3 goals that you’re focused on, the number of goals achieved drops substantially.

Vision – Long Term, Plan – Annually, Execute – Quarterly

The way this can work is a combination of vision, planning and execution. It makes sense to take time out every year and develop (or reconfirm) your long term vision. That could be 3 to 5 years or a super-big vision of 10 years out. Think of it as identifying a point on the horizon that you’re generally aiming for. It should be something that people can get excited about.

From there, it makes sense to identify what you’d really like to get done in the next 12 months. This is much more concrete and the recommendation is to identify the top 3 to 7 things you’d like to get done this year. These should be measurable, time bound and outside of the regular day to day operations.

Finally, using the vision and the plan, you can identify the top 2 or 3 things you really want to get done this quarter (next 90 days). That might mean breaking up your bigger projects into pieces or picking one of the annual priorities that can be achieved in 90 days.


An Alternative Approach…

Another way to use a quarterly focus comes from the book ‘Ownership Thinking‘ where author Brad Hams recommends what he calls Rapid Improvement Plans (RIPs).

A Rapid Improvement Plan is focused around a single Key Performance Indicator and it’s a 90 day team effort solely focused on improving that metric. The first step for the team is to develop a specific improvement they’d like to make in the next 90 days (i.e. improve time to market for product X by 10%). Then they will develop ideas that will drive that improvement and spend the next 90 days proving out and implementing the ideas that work.

Hams recommends identifying a theme for the effort and coming up with a name for it… and planning a fun celebration if the team can hit the target. If you can do this on a regular basis every 90 days, you will have a business that’s really humming before you know it.


What about you? Are you currently using a 90 day focus in your business? How the first quarter go for you? What would it take to start looking at things this way in your environment?

We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach