If you have drive and ambition, than I would bet that you have a lot more stuff to do than time to do it. This is normal and even desirable.
Nobel laureate chemist, Linus Pauling famously stated: “The way to get good ideas is to have many ideas”. The same principle holds for business: The more you have on your plate, the more likely you have valuable things that you can do to move your company forward. The flip side of this is that the longer is your to do list, the more things will you have to say “NO” to. The busier you get, the more DECISIONS you have to make.
Cutting Off Alternatives
The word decision originates from the latin decidere which literally means “to cut off”. Whenever we DECIDE something, we actually do this by cutting off its alternatives. When we decide to get married, we are giving up having other partners in the future. We don’t decide getting married in addition to, but instead of other romantic relationships.
This is important to realize, as we often confuse decisions with positive intentions, by not recognizing their hidden costs. We fail to identify what we have to let go, in order to make room for fulfilling our new, positive intentions.
Let’s say you want to write a book and decide to get up at 4 am every morning. Your real decision is not about getting up at 4 am, however uncomfortable. The real decision is to go to bed at 9 pm the night before, instead of checking email, having a chat over a glass of wine with your spouse, or watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. The 4 am rising is only a good intention without making the painful decisions that would allow it to happen, and handling the unintended consequences of those decisions.
EOS Prioritizes Rocks
So what do these trade-offs look like in business? And how does the Entrepreneurial Operating System help you prioritize them?
One of the foundational tools of EOS is what we call “Rock Setting”. A Rock is an important but not necessarily urgent project, that takes at least 10 hours of focused effort to realize, i.e., which cannot be accomplished in the normal course of operations. Compare it to a “To Do” item, which you can accomplish with a few hours of effort as part of your regular business day.
The Rock Setting process involves listing out all the potential projects that your team could accomplish to move the company forward. Examples include: hiring a CFO, rolling out a new software tool, launching a new product, or implementing EOS or “Traction” in your business. My clients often list out 30 to 50 projects they would like to commit to.
As a business owner or leader, you find it easy to get excited about Rocks and make mental “commitments” to doing them. We all want to make our business grow and become more profitable and these projects offer the prospective for that. “Let’s do as many as we can.”
Unfortunately, you can only do 1-4 of these projects in any calendar quarter without inadvertently dropping the ball in one or more important areas in your business. You may neglect prospecting as a result, or coaching your direct reports, or following up with key clients. Such neglects are all the more dangerous as their impacts often remain hidden until its too late: Your growth momentum stalls, a key employee leaves, or an important client fires you. Such events can cause hard-to-repair damage to your company.
You may say that you are doing “Rocks” all the time and do not need a process. But taking on Rocks as they arise means that you are making decisions in isolation. You get excited about a new marketing campaign, but it may not be the most important priority if compared to onboarding a big client, fixing a process failure or creating an effective incentive program for your salespeople. The comparison will only happen, however, if you choose your quarterly rocks at the same time, as part of a process.
So how does an EOS Implementer help you prioritize? We do this by brainstorming and listing out all the possible 10-hour-plus projects for your business and forcing you to keep cutting away at the list until you have reduced it to a handful of the most important Rocks that your team can commit to 100% accomplishing in the next quarter.
This will be a painful process, forcing you to give up or delay important and exciting projects and confront the fact that you can only do a few. The reward for that pain will be the knowledge that YOUR TEAM will have chosen the MOST IMPORTANT ROCKS for the next 90 days and that they would be committed and accountable to accomplishing them 100 per cent.
A leadership team of 5 executives will typically commit to and accomplish 7-15 such rocks in a quarter. Imagine having 28 to 60 important projects implemented in your business over the next 12 months, without neglecting maintaining normal operations. Wouldn’t that create some Traction for you in 2018?
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