The Rockefeller Habits Checklist
The Definitive Guide


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Short Version

The Rockefeller Habits Checklist, developed by Verne Harnish, provides a framework to build cohesive, high-performing teams driving towards a unified vision.

  • The habits promote alignment, focus effort on the most important goals, instill accountability, and emphasize communication.
  • By driving these benefits, the checklist equips organizations to execute at a high level and drive sustainable growth.

Growing a successful, sustainable company is no easy feat. It requires tightly aligning, focusing, and executing an entire organization towards common goals. But often, misalignment, lack of focus, and poor accountability create cracks in the foundation, hindering execution and performance.

This is the problem the Rockefeller Habits Checklist aims to solve. Developed by Verne Harnish, the checklist provides a framework for organizations to build cohesive, high-performing teams driving towards a unified vision.

At its core, the Rockefeller Habits Checklist brings four key benefits:

  • Alignment - The habits promote leadership team alignment, employee alignment on priorities, and embedding core values and purpose organization-wide. This creates cohesion.
  • Focus - The checklist focuses effort on the one most important quarterly goal, collects employee input, and utilizes customer data. This brings focus to the vital few actions.
  • Accountability - Accountability at all levels is instilled, from leadership down to individual contributors. This enables execution.
  • Communication - Rhythmic communication, transparency, and strategy articulation are emphasized. This allows organization-wide understanding.

By driving these 4 benefits of alignment, focus, accountability, and communication, the Rockefeller Habits Checklist equips organizations to execute at a high level and drive sustainable growth. Now, let's explore each of the 10 habits in greater detail.

  1. Executive team alignment
    The executive team is healthy and aligned. 
  2. Alignment on key quarterly goal
    Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward. 
  3. Rhythmic communication flow
    Communication rhythm is established, and information moves through the organization quickly.
  4. Accountability for goals
    Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met.
  5. Employee input collection
    Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities.
  6. Customer data analysis
    Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data.
  7. Living Values and Purpose
    Core Values and Purpose are “alive” in the organization.
  8. Employee strategy articulation
    Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately.
  9. Quantitative employee metrics
    All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week.
  10. Transparent plans and performance
    The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone. 

Take the Quiz

Step 1 of 11 - Habit 1

The executive team is healthy and aligned.

Rockefeller Habit #1
Creating an Aligned, Healthy Executive Team

The first habit on the Rockefeller Habits Checklist focuses on building a cohesive, aligned leadership team. A fractured executive team paralyzes the entire organization. A unified executive team is critical for organizational success.

Habit #1 has four key components:

  • Team members appreciate one another's varying personalities, motivations, and work styles.
  • The team meets weekly for strategic discussion and planning.
  • The team continuously learns together through monthly executive education and development.
  • The team enjoys time together and can debate issues openly, with all members comfortable contributing.

This #1 Rockefeller Habit is the most important and must be the first one implemented. Without a healthy, aligned executive team that can debate issues and resolve conflicts constructively, you cannot effectively execute anything else in the business.

The best practice is using Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team model. By focusing on trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results, you can build a highly collaborative leadership team. Do team exercises regularly to foster trust and communication. Include personal time in meetings to deepen relationships. Shared learning and team building will pay dividends in performance, satisfaction, and retention. At the foundation is trust and a commitment to results. Invest time here first to create a cohesive, productive executive team able to drive the other Rockefeller Habits forward.

Some challenges leaders face in achieving alignment include:

  • Egos clash and conflict arises amongst team members.
  • Lack of clarity on shared goals.
  • Team members have misaligned KPIs and motivations.
  • Meetings lack meaningful dialogue.

Best practices for an aligned executive team include:

  • Creating shared vision, values, and company priorities together.
  • Instituting strong governance and decision-making processes.
  • Fostering open communication and healthy conflict.
  • Making time for both task-driven and relationship-building interactions.


An aligned leadership team does not happen by accident. It requires intention, investment, and good leadership habits. Reflect on how well your executive team models the four components of Rockefeller Habit #1. What specific actions can you take to strengthen alignment? An aligned leadership team is the foundation for overall organizational alignment.

Rockefeller Habit #2
Aligning on the #1 Quarterly Priority

Once the executive team is aligned, the next critical habit is aligning the broader organization on the single most important goal for the quarter. Companies that execute well have only 1 priority.

Habit #2 has four key components:

  • Determine the single most important metric (Critical Number) to improve this quarter.
  • Define the 3-5 top priorities (Rocks) that will drive the Critical Number forward. Rank them in order of importance.
  • Announce an inspiring Quarterly Theme and Celebration/Reward to rally everyone behind achieving the Critical Number.
  • Post the Quarterly Theme/Critical Number prominently throughout the company and review weekly progress with employees.

The One Page Strategic Plan fosters alignment on the single most important quarterly priority - the Critical Number. This bridges long-term goals with immediate execution. Rather than just stating the end result goal, identify the key lead measure that enables achieving other priorities.

The Critical Number is the front and everything else cascades down. Often it involves overcoming your biggest bottleneck or constraint. Making that the priority creates focus and a competitive advantage. 

Some challenges leaders face include:

  • Too many competing priorities dilute focus.
  • Lack of metrics and accountability on the #1 goal.
  • Failure to align infrastructure behind the priority goal.
  • Poor visibility into goal progress company-wide.

Best practices include:

  • Utilizing input from across the company to identify the most critical goal.
  • Creating employee line of sight to how they impact the #1 goal.
  • Publicly committing to the goal and tracking progress.
  • Updating systems, meetings, incentives to align with the quarterly goal.


Does your organization struggle with focus and execution? Is everything a priority? Reflect on how well you are applying the four components of Habit #2. What specific actions will you take this quarter to align on the #1 goal?

Rockefeller Habit #3
Creating Rhythmic Communication Cadences

Once the top priority goal is clarified, effective communication rhythms are essential to cascade information and alignment throughout the company. Great organizations have interaction rhythms that keep people in sync.

Habit #3 has four key components:

  • All employees participate in a quick daily huddle to sync up.
  • All teams conduct a weekly meeting.
  • The leadership team meets monthly for a day of learning, problem-solving, and exchanging ideas.
  • Quarterly and annually, leadership holds focused offsite meetings to evaluate and plan for the 4 Decisions (Strategy, Execution, People, Cash).

Consistent meeting rhythms align your team and drive execution. Like a heartbeat, they enable smooth, rapid responses. The cadence is annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily gatherings focused on strategy and priorities.

The daily huddle tactically syncs people and surfaces roadblocks. The weekly meeting reviews progress on quarterly goals and addresses key issues. The monthly management meeting cascades strategy and updates to middle management. Quarterly and annually, leaders hold offsites to set plans and update the One Page Strategic Plan. Once per quarter, they share updates company-wide. Rhythmic meetings foster culture, accountability, and solutions. With aligned tempo, your organization communicates and operates as one.

Some challenges leaders face are:

  • Lack of regular cadence at department/team levels.
  • Information gets bottle-necked and fails to cascade.
  • Meeting notes not distributed in a timely manner.
  • Minimal informal interaction amongst teams/divisions.

Best practices include:

  • Consistent weekly team huddles cascading throughout the organization.
  • Clear communication processes moving information up, down, sideways.
  • Meeting rhythm technology to instantly share notes organization-wide.
  • Creative cross-functional get-togethers and socials.


Does communication get clogged or siloed in your company? Evaluate how well you are applying the four components of Habit #3. What will you change to create smoother information flow? Rhythmic communication ties the organization together.

Rockefeller Habit #4
Instilling Accountability for Goals

After aligning on the top priority and establishing communication rhythms, accountability is essential to ensure execution. Responsibility charting is the most powerful tool for operational execution.

Habit #4 involves four key components:

  • Complete the Functional Accountability Chart to ensure the right people are in the right roles with clear responsibilities.
  • Assign ownership for each line item in the financial statements.
  • Identify accountable leaders for each core process outlined in the Process Accountability Chart.
  • Establish an Advisory Board with leading experts for any 3-5 year business Key Thrusts/Capabilities that lack internal expertise.

Accountability is assigning one person responsible for each major function, financial item, and process. The FACe tool maps functional accountability to avoid gaps or overlaps. Name just one owner per function or financial line item for clarity. 

Document process owners and metrics on the PACe. Key processes like sales, delivery, and procurement often cross functions needing coordination. With sole accountability and experts mapped for finances, functions, processes, and capabilities, you gain focus, execution, and competitive advantage. Avoid putting more than 1 name as a responsible party. 

Some challenges include:

  • Lack of clarity on who owns what.
  • Goals not translated into actionable objectives per person.
  • Minimal data to gauge performance objectively.
  • Spotty or lack of accountability reviews.

Best practices involve:

  • Using RACIs to map responsibilities.
  • Setting SMART goals for all employees.
  • Establishing individual/team KPI dashboards.
  • Weekly one-on-ones and quarterly business reviews.


How well does your organization implement clear accountability? Evaluate your approach based on Habit #4. What will you do to strengthen accountability and drive execution of your #1 goal?

Rockefeller Habit #5
Collecting Ongoing Employee Input

The most valuable assets of any organization are its people. To unleash innovation and engagement, leaders must actively collect input from employees. Your employees know the answers, you just need to regularly ask them what they are.

Habit #5 involves four key components:

  • All executives (and middle managers) have a Start/Stop/Keep conversation with an employee weekly to collect input.
  • The executive team shares insights from employee conversations at their weekly meeting.
  • Input on obstacles and opportunities is gathered from employees weekly.
  • A mid-management team is responsible for following up on all employee feedback and closing the loop.

Frontline employees offer invaluable insights - they directly interface with customers and operations. Routinely collecting their feedback improves decisions, retention, and satisfaction.

Implement weekly Start/Stop/Keep conversations between leaders and staff: What should we start doing? Stop doing? Keep doing? Closely track "stop doing" input to identify roadblocks. Ask strategic questions tied to growth, costs, and customer experience. Avoid complaining sessions. Act on suggestions or explain why not - lack of follow up destroys morale. Making employee conversations a habit strengthens leadership skills. It taps the ideas of your best asset while building loyalty through responsiveness. Closing the loop is critical - execution or reason why.

Some challenges include:

  • Top-down culture that discourages input.
  • Lack of processes and forums for upward feedback.
  • Failure to act on input and address concerns.
  • Poor follow through closing feedback loops.

Best practices include:

  • Weekly team huddles, town halls, anonymous surveys to solicit input.
  • Actively seeking input from silenced voices.
  • Taking rapid action on concerns and celebrating wins.
  • Communicating changes made from employee feedback.


How well are you activating employee input? Evaluate your approach per Habit #5. What will you implement to capture more ideas and concerns from your people? Their insights can profoundly improve your organization.

Rockefeller Habit #6
Analyzing Customer Feedback Data

Organizations exist to create value for customers. To win in the market, leaders must obsess over customer perspectives as much as financial returns. Deep customer insight enables companies to lead markets.

Habit #6 involves four components:

  • All executives (and middle managers) have a 4Q conversation with a customer weekly to get feedback.
  • The executive team shares customer insights from these conversations at their weekly meeting.
  • Employees across the company are involved in collecting customer data.
  • A mid-management team is tasked with closing the loop and following up on all customer feedback.

To stay attuned to customers, executives and managers should hold weekly 4Q conversations with end users - How are you? What's going on in your world? What do you hear about competitors? How are we doing? This provides direct, unfiltered feedback on needs and performance.

Discuss insights from 4Qs at leadership meetings to spot trends and validate findings. Involve all employees, especially frontline sales and service people, in gathering intel. Turn your company into a customer insight machine. Systematically collect, analyze, and act on feedback to drive growth and retention. Assure customers their input is heard by closing the loop - communicate how insights are implemented or will be in the future. Keeping a real-time pulse on customers through continuous conversations helps you stay ahead of trends and build loyalty.

Some challenges include:

  • Lack of processes to capture regular customer insights.
  • Customer data fragmented across the organization.
  • Tendency to rely on anecdotal vs. systematized feedback.
  • Minimal visibility of customer metrics company-wide.

Best practices involve:

  • Establishing a Voice of Customer program.
  • Using CX software to compile multi-source customer data.
  • Creating customer review rhythms, like NPS analysis meetings.
  • Displaying customer dashboards in central workspaces.

How ingrained is the customer perspective in your culture? Evaluate your approach based on Habit #6. What will you do to deepen your customer insights? Customer truth can inspire innovation and guide smart decisions.

Rockefeller Habit #7
Keeping Values and Purpose Alive

A company's core values and purpose are the foundation of its culture. They guide decisions and inspire passion. Get your values right and everything else follows.

Habit #7 involves four key components:

  • Core Values are defined, Purpose is articulated, and both are widely understood by employees.
  • Leaders reference the Core Values and Purpose when giving praise or feedback.
  • HR processes like hiring, onboarding, reviews, and recognition align with the Core Values and Purpose.
  • Actions are taken quarterly to reinforce and strengthen the Core Values and Purpose.

Core Values define what matters most to your organization - its soul and culture. Move beyond generic words to articulate authentic phrases reflecting desired behaviors. Let them evolve over a few months before finalizing. The Core Purpose answers why you exist - your passion beyond profits. Distill it to a single driving idea. Keeping the Core alive requires daily use in decisions, discussions, and recognition. Hire and reward people that exemplify the Values and Purpose. Assess progress regularly. Like strengthening the core physically, take quarterly actions to reinforce Values and Purpose. This engages employees and differentiates you in the market. Authentic, lived Values and Purpose become a strategic advantage.

In summary, invest time in uncovering your authentic Core Values and Purpose. Make them genuine reflections of what sets your culture apart. Bring them to life by referencing them actively in decisions and interactions. Hire and reward accordingly. Plan quarterly exercises to renew and strengthen them. With the Core as your foundation, you align the organization's heart and soul. This sparks passion, focus, and competitive differentiation. Keep your Core Values and Purpose alive, dynamic, and growing.

Some challenges include:

  • Too many values dilute their impact.
  • Lack of commitment to upholding values.
  • Misalignment between espoused vs. lived values.
  • Values and purpose not ingrained into culture.

Best practices include:

  • Narrowing values to 3-5 tangibly defined qualities.
  • Leaders authentically role modeling values.
  • Assessing values alignment in hiring and reviews.
  • Incorporating values and purpose into company events.


How alive are your values? Evaluate where you stand based on Habit #7. What specific steps will you take to ingrain values and purpose into your culture? Living values sustain great organizations.

Rockefeller Habit #8
Enabling Employees to Articulate Strategy

For an organization's strategy to take hold, it must be understood and owned by employees at all levels. Staff should be able to articulate the key elements of the company's strategy if it is to be executed.

Habit #8 involves four key components:

  • Track and visibly display progress on the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
  • Summarize the Core Customer(s) in 25 words or less.
  • Define the Brand Promises and track the corresponding KPIs weekly.
  • Craft an Elevator Pitch that compellingly communicates what the company does.

Traditional strategic plans often end up collecting dust on a shelf with minimal engagement or execution. The One Page Strategic Plan counters this by driving alignment and focus through simplicity and transparency. The core elements - BHAG, Core Customers and Brand Promises - provide clarity and direction.

The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) sets an ambitious 10-25 year (I like 5 to 10 year) objective aligned to your Passion, Competencies, and Profit Drivers. Defining your Core Customers beyond demographics reveals your most valuable niches. The Brand Promises make your value proposition tangible with supporting metrics. All employees should be able to articulate your differentiation. With the entire organization aligned behind these simple, strategic elements, you gain focus and the ability to execute consistently. The One Page Plan turns strategy from an academic exercise into a driver of growth and sustainability.

Some challenges include:

  • Strategic plans that sit on shelves and fail to engage.
  • Lack of cadence for managers to cascade strategy to teams.
  • minimal assessments of employee strategy understanding.
  • Weak incentives to learn and apply company strategy.

Best practices include:

  • Crafting strategy narratives and memorable frameworks versus dry plans.
  • Scheduling regular manager-to-team download sessions on strategy.
  • Surveying and discussing strategy at town halls and team meetings.
  • Making strategy expertise a part of advancement criteria.


How well can your employees articulate strategic priorities? Evaluate your approach based on Habit #8. What will you do to improve strategic literacy across the organization? An engaged employee base is a powerful competitive advantage.

Rockefeller Habit #9
Using Quantitative Employee Metrics

To track progress, leaders need quantitative metrics. This applies as much to assessing people as financials. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Habit #9 involves four components:

  • Identify 1-2 weekly Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) per employee role.
  • Each employee has a Critical Number aligned to the company's Critical Number for the quarter.
  • Individuals/teams have 3-5 Quarterly Priorities/Rocks aligned with the company's.
  • All executives and managers have a coach or peer coach for accountability on behavior changes.

To drive accountability, every employee should have quantifiable goals aligned to company objectives. With clear KPIs mapped to strategic priorities, staff at all levels understand how they impact success. When progress is tracked and reviewed weekly, people take ownership.

Additionally, an executive coach or peer coach provides vital accountability for leaders. Like elite athletes, executives perform best with expert coaching. External coaches excel at facilitating planning, developing teams, and driving behavioral changes - things leaders tend to self-assess poorly. Establish metrics for all employees. Implement coaching for managers. By quantifying performance down to the individual, and coupling it with objective coaching, you equip your team to achieve peak results.

Some challenges include:

  • Lack of meaningful metrics tied to individual/team goals.
  • Inconsistent rigor capturing metrics data.
  • Tendency to avoid accountability with quantifiable targets.
  • Spotty use of metrics in management conversations.

Best practices include:

  • Tying metrics tightly to company objectives and OKRs.
  • Building cadence to gather key operational data.
  • Publicly tracking goals with lead/lag metrics.
  • Making metrics central in one-on-one coaching and reviews.


What gets measured gets managed. Evaluate your metrics regimen per Habit #9. What improvements will make your metrics more motivational? Quantify performance to enhance execution.

Rockefeller Habit #10
Making Plans and Performance Visible

For an organization to work collaboratively, everyone needs visibility into key information like plans, priorities, and performance. Public scoreboards motivate better performance.

Habit #10 involves four key components:

  • Create a physical or virtual "situation room" for weekly meetings.
  • Post the Core Values, Purpose, and Priorities visibly throughout the company.
  • Display scoreboards everywhere with progress on KPIs and Critical Numbers.
  • Use a system to track and manage the cascade of Priorities and KPIs top-down

Transform your meeting spaces into vibrant Situation Rooms that visibly display your key metrics, KPIs, and strategic plan. Like the Navy SEAL War Room, plaster your conference rooms with data, goals, and trend lines that drive faster, better decisions. Use large monitors for real-time visibility into progress.

Additionally, post Core Values, Purpose, and Priorities prominently throughout the company as reminders that align employees, customers, and partners. Display simple yet compelling scoreboards everywhere to let staff know at a glance how the business is performing. To manage execution, use an online platform that provides real-time visibility into strategic priorities and progress. With data visible 24/7, you enhance transparency, accountability, and focus. Combined with Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up tools, this creates an organization that is accountable, profitable, and easier to lead.

Some challenges include:

  • Strategic plans and data trapped inside management levels.
  • Minimal displays of goals and progress visible to employees.
  • Poor understanding of financials and operations outside the executive team.
  • Spotty metric reviews across the organization.

Best practices include:

  • Company-wide town halls to share strategic plans.
  • Large visual scoreboards displaying real-time performance data.
  • Education on financials and operations numbers.
  • Making metrics central in all recurring meetings.


How transparent is information at your company? Evaluate where you stand based on Habit #10. What will you do to increase visibility of plans and performance? Transparency builds alignment and motivation.