It’s an all familiar scenario for many business owners and CEOs: you sit down with your executive/management team at the beginning of your strategy planning cycle, jot down a long list of ambitious targets and priorities, only to get to the following year having hardly progressed on any of those grand plans. In a previous article, we discussed how the execution of strategy requires absolute precision in how you choose and define your priorities. But the journey to flawless strategy execution doesn’t stop there. In fact, that’s just the start. Once you have developed priorities and a plan around how to achieve them, you need a cadence of accountability to ensure the team is executing on the plan. Regular meetings with your team are how you create that cadence of accountability. John Doerr, a Silicon Valley Venture capitalist, said it best – “Ideas are precious, but they are relatively easy. It’s execution that is everything.”
The execution meetings you should be having
The operational running of a business requires a lot of communication, meetings and collaboration. I want to draw specific focus to leveraging meetings to create accountability around strategic priorities and goals. Again, setting priorities, goals, and plans is the easy part. The tough part is actually doing it. Developing strategic execution meeting rhythms in the business is where execution really happens.
Quarterly strategic execution meeting rhythm cycle
1. Quarterly meetings
When you have developed your annual strategic objectives, you need to break them down into smaller chunks or, quarterly priorities.
- Review past quarter’s priorities (looking back)
At these meetings, the executive/management team review the priorities set from the previous quarter. When reviewing previous priorities, one should be able to answer with a clear “yes” or “no”, when asked if each priority was met. As a team, discuss the plans you had set to achieve those priorities, what can be learnt and how things can be improved going forward. A useful question to consider when a goal has not been completed is, “Was it due to poor planning, or poor execution?”. It has to be one of those!
- Plan for the new quarter (looking forward)
Quarterly meetings must also be used to set priorities and plan for the upcoming quarter. What do we want to achieve? By when? Who is accountable for the result or outcome?
2. Weekly meetings
Weekly strategic meetings need to be held by the teams responsible for each quarterly priority. Here, it’s important to discuss the weekly progress that is being made towards the quarterly priorities – what did we manage to achieve last week? What are we going to get done this week?
This regular meeting forces everyone to step out of the whirlwind that is their day-to-day operational jobs, to focus on strategic execution. It forces issues and problems to come to the fore instead of getting lost in the chaos of the day-to-day activities. Weekly meetings, in particular, enforce the discipline required to meet quarterly objectives.
3. Monthly meetings
Monthly meetings are a step up from the weekly meetings. They enable and facilitate the progress being made towards quarterly priorities. Here, teams look at the past month in detail, making sure that the plan set is still correct and will get them to their quarterly priorities, and making any adjustments to the plan if needed. Are there enough resources to achieve the set priorities? Is there enough time? Adjustments are important in these meetings because ultimately, an organization should maintain a level of agility. It is better to stop and change the plan than to execute the wrong plan perfectly.
What can happen if you abandon regular meetings?
There’s a company I assisted with their quarterly planning session. Priorities were set, defined and assigned to different people for accountability. All seemed off to a great start. They even agreed to set up their monthly and weekly meetings. What they didn’t do though, is stick to the plan – they didn’t set up the weekly and monthly strategic execution meetings, and so, those meetings didn’t happen. Because of the lack of an accountability loop, the managers contacted me the day before their next quarterly session asking me to email them the list of what they were meant to have done for the quarter. Don’t be like the vast majority of organisations, that neglect putting work into bringing their strategies to life. Because as Oracle CEO, Mark Hurd, said, ““Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination.”