The Thick of It: Defining Your Operating Rhythm
March 5, 2024
The Thick of It: Defining Your Operating Rhythm

Defining Your Operating Rhythm (and why your strategy depends on it)

Believe it or not, March is already upon us. For most organizations, we’ve moved past the company kickoff stage, and the strategic direction for the year has been communicated across teams.

And for us Strategy and Operations Leaders, we now find ourselves in the thick of it.

At Elate, our fiscal year kicks off in February, so we are still riding high on the momentum generated from communicating our targets and strategy for the year to the entire organization.

However, experience has taught me what lies ahead in the coming weeks. Many Strategy and Operations Leaders have already sensed the transition from communicating the strategic plan to the nitty-gritty of execution.

I’ve referenced this before, but early in my career I received this advice:

“Anyone can build a plan. It’s how you execute that truly matters.”

As we enter March, the effectiveness of the operating rhythm and processes you have in place to support your strategy for the year will make or break your ultimate success.

So what does your Leadership Team’s cadence look like for reviewing your strategic execution and operating plan targets?

More importantly, is there a defined cadence that your entire team adheres to on a regular basis? If not, now is the time to establish that structure or adjust accordingly.

While the meeting frequency and duration will vary depending on the company stage and leadership team size, here is our recommended cadence as a starting point:

Weekly Leadership Team Report

The Weekly Leadership Team Report should be sent two days prior to the ELT Meeting. This should serve as a pre-read, and cover most of the ‘roll call’ type of items we typically waste all of our time running through in the actual meeting.

Some areas to include in the pre-read report:

  • Weekly Recap: Highlight key wins, events, or areas of focus that had relevant change/movement.
  • Operating Plan/North Star Metrics: Include visibility into the key metrics and Objectives that serve as our guiding stars throughout the year.
  • Status of ELT Objectives/Initiatives: Update on progress of ELT Objectives and initiatives with commentary provided by owners.
  • Department-Specific Metrics: Share metrics that are relevant to that quarter’s ELT Meeting. If not metrics, then at least a high-level department breakdown. Again, we want a bias to action here folks!

Weekly One-Hour Executive Leadership Session

The Weekly One-Hour Executive Leadership Session is crucial for focused discussions on strategic metrics and objectives. Here's how we should structure it:

  • Start with Operating Plan or Business as Usual Metrics (BAUs): Remember everyone should already have visibility into performance from the pre-read report, so focus this review on Metrics that need discussion. Maybe those over performing or trending in the wrong direction that need intervention.
  • Objective / Initiative Review: This shouldn’t be a roll call where everyone goes around the table saying ‘On Track’, ‘At Risk’, or ‘Behind’. Instead focus the discussion on those Objectives we’ve already identified as At Risk or Behind in the pre-read material. The questions for these Objectives should be centered around how we remove hurdles or help teams get these back on track. I could write a whole Pulse on this topic, but don’t forget that status updates come with baggage, and it must be communicated that ‘red’ is not a reflection of the individual. Rather, a helpful signal for the rest of us to help. Don’t forget to establish this sentiment from the jump.
  • Leverage Remaining Time: Finally, utilize the remaining time to cover large updates for the team or specific areas of focus / topics. Over time, these topics and focus areas should make it into the pre-read material with updates for the next ELT meeting. The intent is that we aren’t just talking about these items without action, but instead following up on what actually happened to help our teams succeed.

Monthly Extended Leadership Session

Rather than waiting until problems within your strategy go from bends to breaks, leverage a regular meeting with extended leadership (C-suite, VP, and Director).

These can be 60-90 minute sessions, but the intent is to get a more proactive view into the Objectives / Initiatives that are likely key contributors to the success of your plan.

Use this session as a way to also begin preparing or ideating on upcoming quarterly Objectives / Initiatives, while also proactively communicating to extended leadership when potential pivots might be happening. Again, we recommend a pre-read for this session as a way to amplify the time you have together as a Leadership team.

Thoughts to leave you with...

By no means is this an exhaustive list or structure for your internal operating cadence, but I hope it can serve as a great jumping off point or reset if needed.

Just remember that it isn’t enough just to set your plan, cross your fingers, and hope you hit your targets.

Furthermore, if you're spending all of your time reporting on what’s already happened rather than focusing your time together on what can be done to help intervene, you are likely just masking cracks that will only worsen throughout the year.

Automating reporting and pre-read material for team members is critical to driving this proactive mindset. However, I realize it’s much easier said than done to compile this information.

We’ve been there and lived firsthand the pain of pulling together information from dozens of spreadsheets and different platforms, saving screenshot after screenshot to our desktop to include in PowerPoint presentations.

There are easier and much more effective ways to run this process. And the business case is almost certainly worth it.

Do you believe your CEO or other members of Leadership want you to spend countless hours compiling reporting materials, or do they want you working across teams to remove friction in processes? I think you know the answer.

So don’t let the pain of taking on this process become your calling card. I personally found myself equating my identity with the number of hours I spent assembling reports, only to realize how much of a disservice it was truly having on myself and the entire company.

As we move into the month of March, don’t lose sight of the value your time and impact has on your organization.

Innovation Issue: Driving Outcomes with Radically Simple Collaboration 🚀

I wanted to share a link to our recent product update for those interested in keeping up-to-date on the platform we're building here at Elate.

Feb 2024 Release Notes

We added Outcomes, giving Strategy and Operations Leaders a great way to visualize how those key metrics they're striving for are connected throughout their strategy. We added new charts for Advanced Reporting (great for those pre-reads), upgraded our Microsoft Teams connection, and more.

Here's a link to the release notes. And if you're interested in seeing how these would translate to your plan, let me know.

And that's all for today... have a great rest of your week.

- Brooks

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