Your Not Done Planning Until You Have Rocks

Rocks
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

It’s that time that we should all be planning for the new year. 

In early October I wrote a couple of articles that talked about different pieces of the planning process. They focused on things that you need to know about your organization before you can plan the tactics that you need to meet your goals and objectives. 

One article talked about the SWOT analysis which is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The other talked about where you wanted your organization to be in the future. 

Both these things are important in the larger scheme of developing a plan. Of course, it doesn’t stop there. You need to know your differentiators as well before you can move onto planning with GSOT (goals, strategy, objectives, tactics). 

Nobody said planning was easy but a good plan is half the battle (the other half is the execution). 

As it’s nearly mid-November, I wanted to come back to the idea of where you want your organization to be and how you’re going to get there.

I’m going to assume that you went through work to decide where you would like to by the end of 2020. This is one year out.

Is that too far out to execute? 

Let’s think like a project manager. How are you going to reach those one-year goals? Well, by further breaking them down into more manageable pieces.

You Need Rocks

As I write this I’m suddenly envisioning the rock fight from the movie, IT but the rocks I’m talking about aren’t the ones you see outside on the ground. If it’s not that what is a rock and why should you care?

Let’s take a step back step back and talk about where your organization wants to be. 

We start with a 10-year target because it forces you to dream where you would like the organization to be.

We then narrow that down. 

The three-year goal recognizes that 10 years is a long time. There are many things that can change, including your original idea of the dream state of your organization. It brings us back to reality and forces us to think a smaller, more manageable chunk of time. 

The one-year plan scales this back even more and says, hey you’ve thought about where you want to be, let’s talk about some goals that can be put in place to help us get to where we want to be at the end of the year and will help us meet your three-year goals.

Even a one year plan needs to be broken down and that’s where rocks come into play.

A rock is a term that I saw in the book, Traction. Now that I think about it, Gini Dietrich over at Spin Sucks might have talked about them as well and she did recommend that I read Traction so, consider this your shout out Gini.

There are only so many hours in the day and resources are finite. If you attack everything on your one year plan at once, it’s going to be hard to get traction.

Rocks are your priorities for the quarter. Breaking the work down into quarters will help focus the organization and help it get the traction it needs to complete the work. 

Break it Down 

I’m going to use the example of a dinner party to illustrate the concept of rocks. I know this may seem ridiculous but bear with me.

Your goal is the dinner party but it takes many pieces to put it together. You need to have appetizers, cocktails, an entree, a side, drinks to have with dinner, and a dessert. 

That’s just the food and drinks. You also need dinnerware, glasses, and plates. Your cooking so you are going to need pots and pans. Depending on what you make you might also need some specific kitchen tools. You may need some decorations and to clean the house as well.

Your dinner party is your three-year goal. The appetizers, cocktails, entree, side, dinner drinks, and dessert are the goals for your one year plan (the other activities will fall into years two and three).

You can’t make the food and drinks all at once so we’ll break this down. Your rock for the next 90 days is your entree.

If you were focusing on all the food and drinks at one time, it might feel overwhelming. Chances are you would be going back and forth between each piece.

You would be lacking focus and the chances of an error would increase. By stating that your rock for the next 90 days is the entree you can become laser-focused.

Create your Rocks

Bring in your leadership team and pull out your one year plan. You will use it to identify your rocks.

They will be the items that are priorities over the next 90 days that will help you meet your one year plan while also contributing the three-year goal.

Like with the goals you developed in your one year plan, less is more. If you have something that is going to take the entire year, break it up in chunks. Each chunk can be a rock.

Be honest with yourselves. If you have too many rocks you may not have the time or resources to properly execute. Keep this in mind as you determine your rocks.

During the course of the year, you will meet with your leadership team four times, once at the beginning of every quarter (or the end of the previous quarter) to determine your rocks.

Final Thoughts

You’ve probably been in this position before. You have a big task at hand and it’s intimidating. 

Every journey starts with a step. 

When you break it down into smaller pieces suddenly it seems more manageable and the intimidation disappears. You focus on each piece. When one piece is done, you move on to the next and before you know you’ve achieved your goal. 

This is the idea behind rocks. They are a great way to focus your efforts and get traction so you can achieve a specific goal.  

Have questions or comments? Put them in the comments.

Shane Carpenter
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