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Posted: June 28, 2011

Do you have the beat?

How execution rhythm can improve operational efficiency

Bob Hills

In 1982, the Go-Go's released the hit "We Got the Beat" - a simple song that describes people as "falling in line" by "walking in time" with the music. In execution management, a similar "beat" can be used to get your entire organization to march in line and in time with your business strategy. Let's look at what your business could have in common with the 80's rock band.

While all companies have a business strategy, many don't have a common mode of working to reach it. Different individuals and teams within the same business go about their work in entirely different ways and on entirely different schedules. This haphazard approach to business results in inefficiencies with communications and collaboration and can produce other forms of dysfunction. In contrast, high performing businesses regularly synchronize the work of their entire organization in order to track progress towards their strategic objectives.

Businesses that consistently perform well have established an execution rhythm. Rhythm simply means a process with a uniform patterned beat or occurrence. This process is known and understood by the organization as the way the business operates. Every company may have their own unique process and vocabulary but what is common is that the process is disciplined and consistent and that everyone participates.

Execution rhythm is established by setting goals and measuring results across the organization on a consistent-periodic basis or cycle. The length of the cycle will vary based on the maturity of the business, but it should be set short enough to keep individuals focused on their most critical goals while providing sufficient time for creativity and getting work done.

In more mature businesses, a typically cycle is three months. For less mature businesses, a shorter cycle may be necessary. To demonstrate a mature business process, I'll describe an execution rhythm based on a quarterly cycle using three management elements: Objectives & Key Results, Monthly Status Reports, and weekly One-on-One Meetings.

Foremost in driving execution rhythm are individual Objectives & Key Results. Every person in the business (including managers) should have a one-page plan stating their committed objectives (set at the beginning of the quarter) and measuring their key results (rated at the end of the quarter). While the individual should take the lead in setting objectives and measuring results, the manager's role is to ensure alignment of the stated objectives with the business's goals and to ensure that the results are assessed accurately and honestly. Once established, the objectives are actively used throughout the quarter to guide the individuals work. It provides a reference for setting day-to-day priorities, an outline for the Monthly Status Reports and an agenda for One-on-One Meetings.

Monthly Status Reports summarize an individual's progress toward his or her objectives. A status report typically contains two to five concise sentences that describe progress towards the individual's quarterly objectives. They may also include comments about other key learnings during the month.
A One-on-One Meeting is a weekly meeting between the individual and their manager where the agenda is primarily driven by the individual's objectives. This is the forum to discuss progress and issues that have been encountered. It is also dedicated time where the individual can seek guidance and the manager can provide feedback and direction as required. Once the rhythm is established, weekly one-on-one meetings will normally take 30 minutes or less.

The goal in establishing an execution rhythm is to synchronize operations up-and-down and across the organizational hierarchy. Therefore timing is critical. For example, key results should be assessed promptly at the end of the quarter since they may contain information that is vital to the individual or broader organization in setting the next quarter's objectives.

Status reports should be distributed to those people that have a need to know in order to maintain alignment - up through the organization and across the organization where dependencies may exist. As standard procedure, Objectives & Key Results and Status Reports should be rolled up through the organizational hierarchy to assess department, function and overall business performance.

At first glance, establishing an execution rhythm may appear to be cumbersome. In reality, many of these elements exist in companies today but are not uniformly applied or scheduled across the organization. There is opportunity in most every business to gain efficiencies through applying a more consistent and disciplined execution process.

So does your organization have something in common with The Go-Go's? Establishing an execution rhythm in your company will get everyone in your organization "working in line" and "working in time" with your business strategy. At that point, you might not want to be singing "We Got the Beat," but establishing an execution rhythm may enable your business to become a bigger hit in the market.
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Bob Hills considers himself a ‘recovering high-tech executive'. He spent 30 years as an executive in global, high-tech firms where he was instrumental in growing concepts and young product lines into mature businesses. After ‘executive rehab', Bob founded Classic Business Logic - a firm dedicated to educating and coaching businesses on the practices and benefits of execution management or, as he prefers to call it, strategy-execution alignment. Bob primarily works with businesses that are struggling to execute their strategies or are interested in scaling their business operations to the next level. For more information visit wwwclassicbusinesslogic.com or contact Bob directly at bhills@classicbusinesslogic.com or by calling 970-389-3634.

 

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