Complete the Right Projects in the Right Order, Right on Time
You have a lot of work to do. I’m not a psychic, I can’t read your task list from here; I simply know the life of the entrepreneur.
There is always more to do than you can complete. There are always new projects you wish you could take on, but you’re uncertain whether or not you can.
Once you do take on new projects, it’s common for you to run into delays, missteps, or confusion that frustrate your progress—or maybe you’re simply overwhelmed because you have too many projects on your plate.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
For your business to be successful, you need to master the art of consistent execution with your team. On a regular basis, your business makes promises to customers, and the only way you can fulfill those promises is if you get the work done.
The Two-Fold Blueprint to Consistent Execution
So what’s the blueprint to consistent execution?
As a visionary entrepreneur you have the uncommon ability to see possibilities that most people can’t.
Your greatest contribution to the success of your business is your ability to leverage that ability by painting the future in broad strokes, telling the story of what happens when you win.
It’s important to macro-dream because small dreams inspire no one. You need a big, bold vision for a better world to inspire your team and keep you going when the going gets tough. You need a purpose that’s more than just making money (despite the fact that you’re in business to do just that).
On the other hand, that same inspiring vision becomes crippling the minute you sit down to actually do the work. When the road in front of you is a thousand miles long, what difference does the first step make? That’s why you need to micro-execute with a series of small objectives over short periods of time to keep your momentum going.
When you macro-dream and micro-execute well you blend a long-term vision with a short-term strategy to get the day’s work done.
Practically, what does that look like?
25 years from now, if your business is successful, how will your world change? Consider the impact that a quarter of a century worth of wealth generation could have on you, your family, and your team, but don’t stop there. How will your customer’s transform over time? Your industry?
You don’t have to know all the steps between now and then to see the future. You may need to close your eyes and place yourself in that future to observe what’s going on. You may need to specify the transformation customers get from your products right now and multiply that by 25 years.
There’s likely a surface-level transformation, but also something deeper and broader as well. What generational impact will your business have on your world?
Once you have a vision to work towards, you should have a massive gap between where you want to be and where you are now. If you don’t see a massive gap, go back to your Macro-Dream, because you’re not dreaming big enough yet.
In a 25-year gap you have 100 quarters, 300 months, or 9,131 days—but only one today. That’s why you need to micro-execute. Focus on consistent execution on a daily basis, and that will compound to create a highly-effective productivity machine by the end of each year.
Admittedly, there is a big gap between a 25-year Macro-Dream and a 1-day Micro-Execute strategy. You do need a system to make sure those daily tasks are the right tasks at the right time in your business. That’s where rethinking your timeline comes in.
Rethink Your Goal Timeline to Shrink the Messy Middle
As you move from Macro-Dream to Micro-Execute, you need to set clear goals that help you work towards your vision—but before you rush past a familiar goal-setting practice, consider this:
Brian Moran and Michael Lennington tell a familiar story about goal setting in their book The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months,
Think about it; we begin the year with big goals but by the end of January we usually find ourselves slightly behind where we need to be. While we’re certainly not pleased, we’re not too worried, either, because we think to ourselves: “I’ve got plenty of time. I’ve got 11 more months to catch up.” At the end of March we’re still a bit behind, but again we’re not worried. Why? Because we still think we’ve got plenty of time to catch up. And this thought pattern prevails late into the year.
We mistakenly believe that there is a lot of time left in the year, and we act accordingly. We lack a sense of urgency, not realizing that every week is important, every day is important, every moment is important.
You can see this pattern everywhere, if you look around you. Lost focus and inefficiency costs you plenty in between goal deadlines, and that adds up with the growth of your team.
If the system isn’t working, change the rules. In this case, the “rule” is to set annual goals for you and your company. In my experience, this draws out what Michael Hyatt calls the “Messy Middle.” It’s painful, costly, and unnecessary.
What if you set goals every 12 weeks instead of 12 months?
This allows you to adapt to the changing landscape of modern business, but maintain strategic focus for an extended period of time (a full business quarter, with a free 13th week for learning, planning, and celebrating your progress). This means you and your team always know exactly what to focus on right now, including which stories to fulfill.
A Brief Introduction to Agile Operations with Scrum
There are many task management and productivity systems for individuals, but the most effective system for teams is Scrum, a form of Agile project management.
Originally created for software companies with collaborating developer teams, Agile operations is designed to balance focus and flexibility, turning major objectives into “stories” that describe the desired outcome, before detailing any of the specific tasks.
Agile teams gather to plan a “sprint” on a regular basis, which is typically a set time period, ranging from 1 to 4 weeks. When planning a sprint, Agile teams commit to which stories they plan to fulfill and break the process of accomplishing that into specific, detailed tasks.
This detailed productivity system is built to begin with the end in mind by ensuring that tasks are assigned for a specific purpose: to fulfill a story, inspired by the current company goals.
My Full Focused Approach to Task Management
I use Asana to manage my personal tasks, and it’s also what the Michael Hyatt & Company team uses for project management. At some level, the software is irrelevant as long as you’re loading a project with tasks for your current sprint and using that to focus your energy.
Personally, I prefer 1-week sprints, and then I use my Full Focus Planner to manage each day. As I mentioned in a recent interview with Matt Ragland, I find a hybrid system incredibly effective for keeping details in Asana (for tasks) and Google Calendar (for appointments).
Each morning, as part of my daily ritual, I review my current sprint and add the most important or high-leverage tasks to my “Big Three” in the planner, along with a few “Other Tasks” I intend to accomplish as well.
I’ve already designed my environment for focus, so I give my attention to the tasks in my planner and Micro-Execute each day to make cumulative progress towards accomplishing my goals.
Your Operations Objective (Why Productivity Matters)
The objective of your operations system is to fulfill the promises that you’ve made to yourself and your customers.
Your operations system needs to account for post-purchase communication, product delivery, and customer service. It involves revisiting your promise and fulfilling every obligation you’ve made. By necessity, that also means that operations involves the production process for your products and services, from building widgets to hosting live events and everything in between.
When you get this right, you can Micro-Execute with the confidence that you are completing the right projects in the right order, right on time. And at the end of the day, you can walk away from your work to enjoy time with your family, without stressing about tomorrow’s deadlines or work.
Question: With a Macro-Dream / Micro-Execute mindset, how could you implement agile operations in your business?