In our last post, we described how great companies simultaneously run two lanes. One is executing their existing business as they know it. The other is building the future business as they envision it.

In that post, we described how you can make the execution of today’s business systematic, so it happens consistently and well without you having to spend a ton of time and energy on it. That’s how you get the time, energy and cash to build tomorrow’s business, which is what we’ll cover here.

What it Looks Like

Great companies are aligned around a clear, compelling “Vision,” which simply means a shared understanding of the future we want to build together. That future requires people, products, technology, systems, new geographic markets and more that the business doesn’t have today. Putting them in place happens through projects. The activities through which you execute today’s business are mostly repetitive. In contrast, the projects through which you build tomorrow’s business are sequential. They build one-upon-the-other and form the staircase you climb to the future you’ve envisioned.

How it Works

Building your future business requires that you identify the projects that matter most, prioritize them and get them done. This sounds simple, but as with most of what we teach our clients, simple doesn’t always mean easy.

In order to build tomorrow’s business effectively, here’s what matters most:

  • Work backward from the future. Project goals should always be set in the context of a desired future state. When you can see the lighthouse, you can aim your boat at it. When you can’t, you’ll zig-zag, which costs you precious time and money.
  • Less is more. There will always be more to do than you have resources to do. If you don’t choose to narrow it down, you’re leaving to chance what does or doesn’t get done.
  • Have a formal goal-setting process. Formalizing commitments about which projects we’re working on, who owns what, and where we intend to be on them at a specific date in the future greatly increases the odds that they’ll get done.
  • Set project goals together as a team and have them all come due at the same time. Where goal-setting processes exist, they tend to be between the individual and their boss, and deadlines tend to be tailored to each project. When teams set goals together and vet each other’s goals, the level of alignment and commitment goes way up. Having those goals come due at the same time takes a little getting used to. But it means that on a regular basis you can see with absolute clarity how the team is performing.
  • The cadence matters. We use 90 days, which works well for most companies most of the time. It’s long enough to get a meaningful chunk of work done and short enough to remember that there’s going to be accountability for it.

Putting the Pieces Together

Imagine that once a quarter, you and your team go offsite for a day to work “on” the business instead of “in” it. You start the day by reviewing how the team and the company did in the last 90 days. Did we make our numbers? What was our completion rate on the goals we set 90 days ago? What did we learn?

You spend the next several hours getting the clutter out of your head, making sure the team is still aligned about where you want to go and smoking out new issues that need to be solved. With all of that in hand, the team then spends several hours setting, vetting and committing to its goals and plan for the next 90 days. You leave the room with the table set for the next quarter.

Wash-rinse-repeat. Every 90 days, a handful of new steps on your staircase into the future.

If that sounds good to you, click here and we’ll start the conversation.