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Quarterly Priorities - Balance Critical Numbers #116 4-26-11

Posted by Brandon Procell on Tue, Apr 26, 2011

Question:  I’ve set my priorities with my team for the 2nd quarter.  What else should I have in place to get the results we want?

Answer:  If you have your second quarter priorities identified and communicated to your team you’re in the right place.  There are several things you need to be doing in order to make sure your company moves forward and achieves these priorities. 

Let’s start by asking some questions.  Do you have your daily, weekly, and monthly meetings scheduled with the proper agenda to make sure you are getting updates and accountability on your teams tracking toward these priorities?  Are the priorities you identified measureable?  Have you set up success criteria and identified red, yellow, green for each priority to make it visually clear how well each executive team member is doing?  These save time in meetings and bring clarity to the monitoring process.  Is there a clear accountability time in your meetings, and is it clear excuses will not be tolerated?  Have you limited your priorities to 3-5 to ensure you don’t have too many that you and your team are focused on?  Do you have dashboards with visual success criteria updated at each meeting?  Do these include company as well as each team members department or individual tracking?  Have you chosen to initiate a theme to communicate clearly these priorities to the remaining members of your team?  Does each of your team members then have individual priorities and a dashboard to track their progress?

Sounds like a lot of work?  Yet does anyone believe that success is for those who don’t do more, track more and remain alert and compelled to do more in order to succeed?  Good is the enemy of great.  Leadership needs to play the decisive role in setting the course for your team’s success.  If you do not have the commitment and discipline to follow through why will subordinates? 

Despite having all of these elements in place it’s still possible to fail in achieving your quarterly priorities.  In fact it’s possible to succeed at hitting your target priorities and still fail in your ultimate quest to reach your goals.  That’s because you need to make sure you have balance in setting your priorities.  Sometimes we can be so intense on achieving a priority we don’t realize the importance of setting counter balancing critical numbers to ensure we haven’t lost sight of our ultimate intentions. 

Delta Airlines provides a great example of the need to use counter balancing critical numbers. Delta was driving hard to improve their on-time departures metric. They focused so hard on on-time departure productivity metric that they forgot about the people they were trying to serve. By focusing only on on-time departures, they started cutting corners and frequently were unable to load all of the bags on each plane. This left the most important people – their customers, without their luggage and feeling rather angry. So Delta began measuring missing customer bags and overall customer satisfaction along with on-time departures, and it forced the company to figure out how to provide on-time departures without cutting important corners. That’s why we suggest having critical numbers that balance People and Productivity priorities.

At the top of the One Page Strategic Plan are the Two Drivers: People [Relationship Drivers], and Process [Productivity Drivers].  There are a number of reasons these are here.  Not the least of which is to remind us of the importance to keep your business in balance.  You need measurements in each of these aspects of your business. 

At the bottom of the One Page Plan under the one year, quarter and individual plan look for the Success Criteria with room for Measurements for Red, Yellow, Green and Super Green.  Next to the title Critical Numbers you’ll see People [B/S] and then for the next box Process [P&L].  The reason these are there are to remind you of the need for this balance again.  B/S stands for Balance Sheet and the counter balance to this is P&L or your Profit and Loss sheet. 

It is important to balance Productivity Indicators (activities that you do or achieve), with People Indicators (activities that impact relationships). Companies that measure only one of these two areas tend to go out of balance.  It can damage the company’s results (productivity) or relationships (people). Recent history provides with a couple of examples.  During the recent recession, the unions working with General Motors resisted concessions that would keep the company afloat.   As a result, the company declared bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by the Federal Government.  GM got too far out of balance focusing on its People.  It lost its Productivity health. Contrarily, Enron is an example of an organization whose top management was so focused on results – Productivity – that its broke the law and damaged its People (shareholders, employees and customers). It is vital for your company to remain healthy that you consistently measure both Productivity AND People indicators.

When you plan your priorities for the quarter make sure you’ve answered the question listed here in the second paragraph, but most importantly make sure you’ve balanced your quest for your top priority with a counter balancing critical number.  Something that makes sure you haven’t gotten completely overzealous in your pursuit of achieving this target.  Generally speaking, having a metric to measure People [Relationship Drivers] will keep whatever priority you are targeting for productivity in balance. 

Next newsletter will discuss leading and lagging indicators, a subject covered briefly in my blog on metrics.


“Next to love, balance is the most important thing.”

-John Wooden

“Poor people choose now. Rich people choose balance.”

-T. Harv Eker

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

-Albert Einstein

 “Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility, and commitment.”

-H Ross Perot


Often the difference between hitting your targets and not is accountability. Click here to download an accountability tool [in Excel or Word] that tracks who, what, and when for any project or assignment.


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