Rocks are the lifeblood of any organization implementing Scaling Up or EOS Traction. These high-priority projects or goals, carefully selected for their potential to make a significant impact on your organization's progress within a quarter, are essential for success. However, when I begin a new client engagement, I often find that teams struggle to set effective Rocks during their first quarter with me. About 5 to 7 weeks into the quarter, team members start questioning the importance of their Rocks amidst their other tasks. This misalignment can lead to late or poorly defined Rocks with questionable significance.

Embrace this initial struggle as a stepping stone towards setting high-quality, "gemstone" Rocks in future quarters. Remember, not all Rocks are created equal.

Let's start with the mistakes that are often made around Rocks. 

  1. Lack of clarity: Failing to clearly define the Rock's purpose, scope, and expected outcomes can lead to confusion, wasted effort, and suboptimal results. Ensure that each Rock is well-defined and has specific, measurable objectives. I instruct my teams to set FAST Rocks, while other coaches prefer SMART Rocks. 
  2. Too many Rocks: Overloading team members with too many Rocks can dilute focus and hinder progress. Prioritize and select only the most critical and impactful initiatives to focus on during a given period. When starting Scaling Up, I often recommend that each team member takes on at most 3 Rocks to their name. As the practice builds over the quarters, I'll allow for up to 5 Rocks, but beyond 5 is a recipe for failure. 
  3. Insufficient planning: In the haste to set Rock, teams fail to think through all the steps required to make a Rock successful. They underestimate the work needed and delay starting the Rock until mid-quarter. Once they start, they realize the significance of the effort and end up with a failed or late Rock. 
  4. Inadequate communication: Poor communication of the Rocks and their importance to the organization can lead to misalignment and lack of buy-in from team members. Communicate the purpose, objectives, and progress of Rocks to all relevant stakeholders.
  5. Misaligned priorities: Creating Rocks that are not aligned with the organization's overall strategic objectives can result in wasted effort and missed opportunities. Team members often set Rocks that are important to THEM but not the TEAM. Ensure that your Rocks support your organization's long-term vision and goals.
  6. Ignoring progress and adjustments: Focusing solely on the result and not regularly reviewing progress can result in missed opportunities for improvement and course correction. Periodically assess your Rock's progress and adjust as needed to stay on track. However, I highly recommend waiting to change a Rock's due date till the end of the quarter. A late Rock helps us highlight something we didn't initially see in the planning process, and adjusting it at the quarterly planning session gives us a chance to reprioritize according to other efforts. 
  7. The day-to-day win: Old Benny Franklin said it best, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". This is true when it comes to Rocks. Most teams don't plan their week and schedule the 2 to 4 hours needed per week to take chips out of their Rocks. Use the Eisenhower Matrix and Time-Blocking to schedule the important/non-urgent nature of Rocks so they get accomplished. 

Following these 4-steps, you'll start setting gemstone-like Rocks that will deliver real value at the end of the quarter. 

  1. Slow down to speed up
    1. Ask yourself or your team, "Does this Rock align with moving us closer to the goals we've stated?"
    2. Is there something more significant we could be working on to get us to our goals? 
  2. Is success clearly defined in the Rock? Everyone on the team should clearly understand when the Rock is complete. The criteria for success will not be subject to interpretation. We get here by setting FAST or SMART Rocks. 
  3. Create a rough, high-level project plan for completing the Rock during the next 90 days or less. In Scaling Up, use the 13-Week Race Exercise as a template. Please keep it simple but thought out. 
  4. Block out time to work on the Rock and stay diligent. I typically recommend 2 to 4 hours of focused time per Rock per week. During this time, kill all notifications, close your apps, and place your phone in do not disturb. Reminder, this is what you and your team decided was the most important thing to work on. Now protect the time required to do the work. 

Setting impactful, high-quality Rocks is the key to unlocking your organization's potential and fostering success. By addressing common challenges and implementing best practices, you'll transform your Rocks into powerful drivers of progress. Focus on clarity, alignment, and effective time management to ensure your Rocks truly shine. As you and your team learn from each quarter's experiences, you'll develop a deeper understanding of what it takes to create "gemstone" Rocks that elevate your organization to new heights. Embrace the journey and watch as your organization thrives, bolstered by the strategic power of well-crafted Rocks.

About the Author

I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world.

I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.

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