Implement Big Rocks

Implement Big Rocks!

Some clients scramble at the end of each quarter to implement their Strategic Projects (aka Big Rocks). Here is the framework I use to help you accelerate strategy execution. 

First, let’s set the scene. 

Between Annual High-Level Strategic Planning sessions, we use Quarterly Strategic Review (QSR) sessions to evaluate how well you’re executing your strategy, make course corrections, and choose our priorities each quarter.

These quarterly reviews are critical because they help you stay focused but flexible. It’s important to do them every quarter, no matter what. And it’s important to do them rigorously and well. 

I use this battle-tested QSR agenda:

Past (After Action Review):  

  • Key achievements. Mistakes & Lessons. Core Values celebrations & shortfalls
  • Review execution of Strategic Projects (Big Rocks) from last quarter
  • Review Metrics / KPI trends from last quarter

Future: 

  • BHAG (Long-Term Vision) progress? Still the right goal?
  • Long-term (3 to 5 year) Strategic Moves progress? Still the right moves? 

Present:

  • Update SWOT Analysis to reflect the changing reality
  • Confirm Annual Initiatives / Milestones (to be achieved by end of year)
  • Choose Strategic Projects & Improvement Metrics to focus on this quarter (aka “Big Rocks”)

OK, so we leave the Quarterly Strategic Review aligned and focused. How should we optimize our time over the next 12 weeks? Here’s an approach many clients find useful:

Week 1. 

Each Strategic Project owner conducts preliminary research and meets with the core project team members within 7 days of the planning session to scope out the project. 

I have a disciplined process for this too. We use a pre-mortem exercise (worst-case scenario) to develop a list of the key tasks or milestones “in scope” to be completed this quarter, as well as a list of tasks that are “out of scope”. 

Week 2. 

The Senior leadership team reviews and signs off the project scopes. Not too hard (setting ourselves up for failure), not too soft (sandbagging), but in the Goldilocks zone (robust, with just the right amount of stretch). 

After all, business as usual (BAU) still needs to happen, metric targets need to be met, etc.  Big rocks happen “in parallel” with, not instead of BAU.

Weeks 3-10.

The Project team front-loads the work and “goes hard” to complete the project scope by the end of week 10. 

To drive execution and go fast, I recommend a disciplined (yep, that’s my watchword) weekly cadence of project meetings using a standardized 7-point agenda and reporting framework.
1. Any changes to the scope? (beware of scope creep)
2. On track to complete the project, as scoped, before the due date?
3. Key achievements since our last meeting?
4. Any roadblocks?
5. Lessons learned?
6. Next steps?
7. What is “The One Thing”? (the most important task that can be completed in the coming week to move this project forward)

Weeks 11-12.

Tidy up loose ends, perform an After Action Review, create any necessary documentation, and begin planning the next phase (where appropriate).

Summing Up.

Create a robust scope, go hard at the beginning, and finish each quarter with some breathing room to spare. You want your project team to experience the thrill of achievement. Pop the cork and celebrate! Take the team out for lunch! Catch your breath! You’ve earned it.

Then we regroup for the next Quarterly Strategic Review and plan our next sprint. On your marks …… get set ….. go!

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Until next time…
Stephen