Leave No Rock Behind

Clark Neuhoff Traction

This creed leave no man behind is espoused by many branches of our armed forces as well as other countries. The movie Blackhawk Down brought this to the popular culture. It’s a basic principle you must have in an army. If a soldier knows that whatever happens, he is not alone and won’t be left behind, he will take much more risk. This is a powerful if not essential tenant for any organization that seeks to accomplish great things. While running a business does not require the same valor or sacrifice as our veterans, we can learn many lessons from them. Just like in any platoon, you and your leaders must work as a team, and know that you’ve got each other’s back.

I’ve just completed Quarterly Planning with most of my clients. This is that very powerful step in the EOS® Process where the Leadership Team looks back to assess how they did over the last 90 days in terms of hitting their numbers and achieving their most important priorities. We call them Rocks, as in “put the big rocks in first” – thank you Steven R. Covey. Then we review their vision to make sure they are all on the same page and set new Rocks for the coming quarter. This public accountability instills tremendous focus and team health as they look each other in the eye and agree on what they will do over the next 90 days.

This last time a number of my client teams were not happy with their Rock completion rate – something less that 80% or better. What’s puzzling was how they could be “on track” during the quarter yet still not complete all their Rocks. As we debriefed, a few reoccurring themes emerged:

  • We probably took on more than we could realistically get done
  • It doesn’t feel right saying I can’t do it when all this stuff is so important
  • I hadn’t missed it yet… I thought I could still get it done
  • As long as I made progress each week I was on track
  • So many other urgent issues came up that we never solved getting the Rocks back on track
  • It’s my Rock and I’ll take responsibility for it, I will get it done!

What came next were several very powerful realizations and insights as we discussed through how to set better Rocks for the next quarter.

Less is truly more! – I asked them… So which feels worse; realistically saying what you can and can’t do up front, or admitting that you let your team down by not completing the work you agreed to? We all know the answer.

Where is the 50 Yard Line – A Rock is a project and every project needs a timeline or some milestones. One client decided to identify their “50 Yard Line”. What is your half-way point? As long as you cross that by week six you are on track. Another decided to set 30/60/90 day milestones. In both cases each member of the Leadership Team shared their milestones at their next weekly meeting. More public accountability.

Important vs. Urgent – Didn’t we all agree that “these were the 3 to 7 most important things that must get done this quarter”. So when a Rock is off track, it automatically moves to the top priority for problem solving and we get it back on track. Then you solve the day-to-day issues. You cannot continually trade the urgent for the important.

Leave No Rock Behind – Yes one person must take ownership for completing a given project, but that doesn’t mean that they do all the work themselves. And when things start to slip don’t be afraid to ask for help. You see if one of your team fails, you all fail. It’s always about the greater good of the organization and achieving your shared vision.

Stay Focused!