There is a certain sense of awe, a sense that everything you dreamed the business you built and worked so hard over for so long, could actually be possible. You realise that there is a lot to do, and probably too many things to list, but the realisation that there is a system you can use to scale your business that is simple, practical and actionable is profound.
At least that was my experience, and it certainly has been the predominant theme in conversations with the hundreds of business owners I have spoken to about the Rockefeller Habits, Scaling Up and Gazelles tools.
The problem is that even though the system and tools are perfect for scaling up mid market companies, many One Page Strategic Plans lie incomplete in drawers and don’t do the business justice. Of course I have also seen some amazing growth from businesses who attribute their success to the Gazelles tools, so why the difference?
I was speaking with a former employee of mine a few months ago who was telling me how senior management have tried to implement Rockefeller Habits into their business. They flew the entire management team to Melbourne to watch Verne speak at a seminar which after flights, accommodation and (expensive) restaurants came to over $70k. 6 months later they had given up as a victim of poor implementation and reverted back to their old ways (which weren’t working either).
In this article I want to share my observations about the key reasons the Gazelles One Page Plan doesn’t stick, and what you can do to make it work for your business.
The first rule of Gazelles success – Set the meeting dates
If you have just read the book Scaling Up, or seen Verne Harnish or one of the other speakers such as myself about the Gazelles One Page Plan at a growth workshop you are likely motivated to make this work in your business. If you only take one thing away from this article, this is it. Get out your calendar and book the following dates now;
3 x quarterly planning session offsite (i.e. March, June, Sept)
1 x 2 day annual planning offsite (i.e. Dec)
Now call and book an offsite room for you and your team at a hotel or function centre for each of these days. Even better place a deposit for all days.
What we are trying to do is to break the embedded system of Bell Curve Execution and make the initiative stick. Read this article to learn how the success traits of an entrepreneur lead to a culture where people actively prevent change in your company. We are trying to develop a culture of accountability to have the management team undertake strategic thinking and execution planning once per quarter, and hold each other accountable to this. To summarise the best way to break the habit of Bell Curve Execution is to ensure the management team agree to coming together every quarter for offsite planning. Then in a public format at the planning day have each team member report on their achievements within the quarter and plan out the next quarter.
The second rule of Gazelles success – The catalyst
Since 2002 when Mastering the Rockefeller Habits was released I am going to suggest that the Gazelles One Page Plan is one of the most copied business planning tools in history. As Verne Harnish decided to share the planning tools, it seems almost every business coach in the small to medium space seems to have either copied or adapted a version to suit their needs. And that’s OK, as copying is the highest form of flattery right? Because ultimately Gazelles is also copying the idea from Jack Welch at GE to put a business plan onto one page anyway.
But to simply copy the One Page Strategic Plan misses the point entirely. It is not writing the plan that creates the success, it is the execution of the plan. And execution of the plan is simply about people doing the things that they agreed to when they say they would. I heard recently that a prominent local business person said that he had tried to implement the Rockefeller Habits, but it didn’t work for him, and his reasoning was that he didn’t have the level of management team that Rockefeller had, and certainly couldn’t afford one of that calibre. Again, this misses the point. The most successful businesses we observe get the best people they can afford and get the best from them. The key to getting the best is to have an outside person challenge the management team in it’s thinking.
It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge at this point that I provide exactly this service, strategic facilitation for management teams at offsite planning days. However don’t let this conflict weaken the importance of this point that once you have set the dates for offsite planning you must find a way to push the team outside their comfort zone at that event. This is what I call the catalyst and please remember that a person who works alone with a CEO as a coach is not a catalyst for the entire management team and likely doesn’t have the skills required. Frankly Gazelles have over 160 highly trained strategic facilitators around the world (the most sought after of which work across several continents) and you could select from one of those or another facilitator, but remember that this person must have credibility with your team, develop a culture of accountability, be able to push back and challenge when appropriate as well as deliver results the business needs. So not only do you need to find a capable catalyst, you need to find one who is the right fit for your business.
Can you do it yourself? Well yes and there is a chance it will work well. But also there are some sound reasons you shouldn’t do it yourself. Remember that the catalyst is not only highly trained in the implementation of strategic planning and how the key elements come together to build a plan, but also how to drive a team through the stages of Core, Advanced and through to Mastery of the Rockefeller Habits. Finally by using an outside person to facilitate your offsite planning sessions, and if that person is certified from Gazelles, it has been our observation that on average the use of a certified Gazelles facilitator reduces the time to successful development of a plan from approximately 5 years to 18 months. If your business is growing at 20% per year that 3.5 years makes a lot of difference.
The third rule of Gazelles success – Holding meetings the right way
There are two things I consistently hear about the meeting rhythm with people who have tried yet not succeeded to implement the meeting rhythm.
1. Daily huddles just didn’t seem to work for us. We tried but people weren’t bringing relevant information, they started to feel stale.
2. Weekly or monthly meetings just didn’t seem to work for us. We tried but people weren’t bringing relevant information, they started to feel stale.
This is a very simple principal we are working to. Measure and hold people accountable to the one or two most important numbers for their role and get out their way. Then support them to achieve these KPI’s and priorities. So outside of actually booking these meetings and ensure they happen the most important thing you must do to ensure the meeting rhythm works is to give each person their one or two KPI’s (why you would fire them if they failed) and give them clarity on what they must achieve in this quarter and prioritise this list of 3-5 things with them from most to least important. Then at the daily and weekly meeting we are providing an update on the advancement toward these KPI’s and goals. Most of the people who have tried and failed with daily huddles and meeting rhythm have not integrated the KPI’s and priorities update into the check in. As mentioned before I recommend users have their Trello or Align dashboard open at these meetings to discuss these KPI’s & priorities.
If John D Rockefeller could get daily telegraphs from his Russian oil wells about their KPI’s in the 1880’s I am sure you can get data from your team about what they are doing to achieve their goals with all the technology we have today.
A footnote – Size matters
At around $4 – $5m in revenue an entrepreneur often faces a dilemma, it is a realisation that the business simply can’t continue to rely solely on them, and that in order to continue growing they will need to trust others to manage elements of the day to day operations in order to continue growing. I have seen businesses with 50 staff all reporting to a single CEO without any middle management and all that serves to do is make the CEO stressed and strung out. The other problem is that with such a flat structure, no one is holding people accountable and coaching them to achieve results. If 50 people are reporting to one manager who also runs the business, then those 50 people actually report to no one.
The key is that at this revenue point, this stretching of the entrepreneur to breaking point necessitates the need for middle management in a growing firm. This middle management structure is the basis to Scaling Up a business, and their involvement in the planning process is fundamental to it’s success. As we like to say “the people who build the plan don’t fight the plan.”
That’s not to say that this planning methodology can’t be a success in smaller businesses, however it’s important to understand that the dynamics are different. Many entrepreneurs in smaller businesses bring the whole company to a planning session, but it can be difficult to have the whole team offsite for 5 days per year. But this difficulty must be offset by the likelihood that the team that doesn’t build the plan will fight the plan and that Bell Curve Execution is likely.
If you have just finished reading Scaling Up, attended a Gazelles workshop recently, or perhaps you have tried without success to implement the Rockefeller Habits into your business, these three tips should greatly improve your chances of structured growth to Scale Up.