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Strategic Discipline Blog

Know Where You’re Going – The Power of Swimlanes

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Mar 29, 2021

3HAG WAY TMWe’ve published several blogs this year on Shannon Susko’s 3HAG WAY: The Strategic Execution System that ensures your strategy is not a Wild-Ass-Guess!

Swimlanes improve your confidence by providing clarity on exactly where you are going.

3HAG is short for: 3-year highly achievable goal.

The reason for the 3 in 3HAG is three years is close enough you can reach out and touch it.

In our 3HAG journey we’ve mapped out the marketplace, determined your company’s unique and valuable position within your marketplace, mapped your company internally, establishing who its Core Customer is, and discovered where you’re positioned among competitors.

MAP, MARKET 3HAG WAY - Core CustomerYour leadership team should have a clear perspective on the company’s present and future, and with this a powerful sense of clarity you perhaps previously lacked.

How important is all this? Clarity creates confidence, and this confidence influences your whole team.


The 3HAG framework defines a unique and differentiated position (see Key Attribution Map) for your company to foster confidence. A 3HAG explains the how: how exactly to execute your strategy through the next twelve quarters.

3HAG WAY BOOKIt’s daunting to put together a 1-year budget, let alone 36 months of forecasting. Completing a budget helps you gain confidence. Yet a budget alone will not give you the confidence to achieve your forecast.

Swimlanes are the tool to provide confidence. They help you see exactly how you’re going to get where you want to go. They are also the hardest part.

Your how is crucial: How are you going to get where you want to go? Swimlanes gives you a specific, achievable road map so you know exactly where you’re going. Most important, your team believes in it. They make decisions and take actions every day to move toward it. They feel the momentum. They see the endgame. That kind of confidence is infectious.

If you really want to achieve your 3HAG, your team needs to focus and build out your 3HAG Swimlanes and 36 Month, month-over-month Rolling Forecast.

Your large three-year development projects always have Swimlanes and run ninety-day sprints. (See Scrum)

Why would we not do this with the riskiest project you ever face—our company? Your leadership team takes each of your differentiators and maps out what it would look like to go from where you are today, quarter over quarter for twelve quarters, capturing the major milestones and assumptions.

3HAG WAY Swimlanes+on+The+WallThen create a six-row by twelve-column grid and got some large sticky notes. Each row is a Swimlane for one of your differentiators; and in each quarter, add the key milestones on a sticky note. Line this up for all your differentiators. We can see the whole path—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Look horizontally across the quarters and vertically to discover where you have dependencies, too many, or too few resources, and the assumptions aligned with all the milestones.

This is a key point for your 3HAG. Do not skip this step. The 3–5 Differentiating Actions are Key Capabilities you need in place at the end of the three years, or Quarter 12.

You will be celebrating with your team when you achieve your fiscal goals because you deliberately put these capabilities in place.

Shannon’s examples from her business Paradata in the book will help you understand this better.

Walmart best-of-value-creating-actitivities-4-728IF you’ve read HBR’s “Can You Say What Your Strategy is?” you’ll recognize the idea behind creating an Activity Fit Map for your 3-5 Differentiating Actions. Edward Jones is the example, as is Walmart.

The Activity Fit Map allows you to lay out what should go in your Swimlanes and challenge ideas in your Activity Fit Map. The smaller circles are more tactical and usually end up as quarterly milestones in your Swimlanes.

Each month quarter you should fill in your Swimlanes by pinning down the necessary milestones associated with each differentiating action.


3HAG WAY SWIMLANESWho is accountable for each Swimlane? Someone on your leadership team volunteers to be accountable. In each Swimlane there are usually multiple function owners who contribute to achieve the Key Differentiator you set out to accomplish.

You’re being asked to predict your future. That’s not easy! Write it down and share so you can start making progress toward your 3HAG.

This is the very reason to develop Swimlanes in the first place. It’s an easy way to map out what you need to do and discuss how to get it done. It means, we are more likely to predict correctly and hit your goals, because you’ve formed predictions and goals on a foundation of solid strategic planning work.

Update your Swimlanes every quarter minimum. As your external analysis (Market Map) and your internal analysis (Key Process Flow Map) evolve, ensure your twelve-quarter Swimlane milestones and forecast keep evolving as your company develops.

The tools we use in Scaling UP and 3HAG Way are growth mindset resources.

To create an environment where everyone is inspired to give their best, contact us today to schedule a free exploratory meeting.

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.

Disciplined People Thought Action Chapter06-01-1To build an enduring great organization, requires disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, to produce superior results, and make a distinctive impact in the world.

Discipline sustains momentum, over a long period of time, laying the foundations for lasting endurance.

3 Disciplines of Execution (Strategic Discipline)-2A winning habit starts with 3 Strategic DisciplinesPriorityMetrics and Meeting Rhythms.   Forecasting, accountability, individual, and team performance improve dramatically.

Meeting Rhythms achieve a disciplined focus on performance metrics to drive growth.

Let Positioning Systems help your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:












Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $250M) business Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing! Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

Chipotle-LogoNEXT BLOG – Monte Moran’s One Thing Focus

In Monty Moran’s People, Leadership, and Priority Lessons we shared Chipotle’s discovery on what he could do to most affect Chipotle’s growth as CEO. Next blog we’ll share how he decided on his One Thing, and exactly what he did to achieve success.


Topics: Accountability, Forecasting, Strategy vs. Planning, Competitive Strategy, 3HAG WAY, Swimlanes

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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