5 Pitfalls in Setting and Executing Quarterly Priorities


In my mind, nothing is more critical to successful strategy execution than setting priorities.  In The CEO Advantage process, we call quarterly priorities “rocks.”  Setting quarterly rocks is a simple process; yet, I have found that executive teams are susceptible to five potential pitfalls in setting quarterly rocks. 

1: Bad Rocks

There are four kinds of bad rocks: 

  • Non-Rocks, as the name applies, are not really rocks at all.  This usually becomes apparent once the work on them begins. 
  • Mountains are legitimate objectives, but they are way too big to be quarterly rocks. 
  • Pebbles are wimpy rocks – the opposite of mountains.  It may be something that is more appropriate for a weekly task than a quarterly priority. 
  • Amoebas are squishy rocks.  These priorities are so nebulous you don’t really know how to measure their progress, much less recognize when they are complete. 

2: Rock Champion Flies Solo

When the rock champion tries to do everything on his own, things usually do not turn out well.  Resources are wasted, information is incomplete, and when the rock is debriefed at the end of the quarter, important questions and insights are found to have been missed by the rock champion. 

3: Rock Creep

Rock creep occurs when the scope of the rock expands during the course of implementation.  As the team fleshes out what needs to be accomplished, it can quickly grow beyond the initial objective.  T

4: Selfish Use of Resources

Once rocks are set, individual executives might choose to withhold some of their resources for non-rock purposes. 

5: Great Mental Exercise

Some executive teams enjoy setting rocks but not working on them.  They find the strategic discussions invigorating – a form of mental exercise – but they shy away from the “mundane” work of actually executing the rocks. 

Each of these pitfalls can be avoided, and it’s important that you and your team learn how to do so as this is the fundamental discipline of strategy execution. 

To learn more about these pitfalls, how to avoid them, and real-life examples of each, read my recently published article: “Rock Rules.”  You can also purchase an online course we have prepared on how to set and consistently execute quarterly rocks.


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