Within every 1-year, 3-year, or longer plan is a series of 13-week races.  Just to be clear from the outset, we are NOT advocating a shift to a quarterly mindset that results in leadership myopia. You have to maintain the longer context to make sure that you are not killing next year and the years after that by pillaging right now to make this quarter’s numbers. What we are talking about here is helping your company achieve outstanding results over the long haul by using quarterly sprints to drive you toward the really big goals. You increase the team’s focus by adding some fun.

Choosing your focus

If you are a Stephen Covey fan you’ll recognize the term “rocks”. These are the most important actions that you make sure to put into your quarter’s activities FIRST. If you have 5 rocks for a quarter, you also have the first of five – the top rock. Next, you determine the critical number that measures the achievement of your target. It might be a number of clients, a percent utilization, or a targeted cycle time on a key work process – whatever number shows you how you are progressing. **Note: It’s important to balance your focus between people and process over time.

Choose a theme

Here’s where the fun comes in. You may want to select a “theme team” to get this going for you. Choose a theme that might come from current pop culture, or from a wordplay that is spun off of the focus, the critical #, etc. Here’s an example: back in our banking days, each Spring the Consumer Banking Group ran a spurt program for generating consumer home improvement loans and lines of credit. One year the theme was “The Loan Oriented Express”. Too punny for your taste? No problem. Choose something that suits your company culture. Remember though – keep it fun, and you can generate excitement in your team.

Implementing the theme

It’s not enough to choose a theme name and leave it that. If you’re going to go for it, then GO for it.

  • Launch – Launch of the theme/13-week race – In the case of the Loan Oriented Express, at the launch of the program all participants received a Chinese take-out box with a clue inside. As an alternative you can hold a pep rally kind of gathering with skits and costumes, or send special packages or mail to the participants. (Skits and costumes work best when they are worn by management!) You can even decorate the work space so the theme is in mind at all times during the quarter.
  • Scoreboard – You’ll need a scoreboard so participants know how they are progressing during the program. The scoreboard should tie in with the theme for maximum impact, and should be readily visible so all participants can keep track. If your team is geographically dispersed, you can fancy up a scoreboard that is distributed electronically. At the same time in every location on Monday at 9:00 a.m., people can see their updated results and focus their activities on the coming week.
  • Celebration – Plan the celebration that you are going to do at the end of the program. The Loan Oriented Express culminated with a ride for all loan producers aboard an old steam train, where a murder mystery was enacted in homage to the Agatha Christie novel. (One of the senior managers in the Consumer Banking Group was the victim.) Then the whole team was transported to dinner, where the mystery killer was revealed. Equally mysteriously, the senior manager, Phil, was brought back to life in time for the buffet! You have tons of options, like a company-wide barbecue in the parking lot, with the burgers flipped by management. Or your team can go together to a ball game. Tie the type of celebration together with the theme for extra impact.
  • Rewards – Rewards for individual and/or team performance can also be an effective part of your theme. These need not cost a lot to implement – one Gazelles client whose goal related to “Pi”, set weekly targets during their quarterly program. When the targets were met, team members could “throw a pie at the senior guy”. There were some truly gleeful expressions on the faces of the pie throwers!

People are motivated by goals that are a stretch, but that they believe are achievable. People are disarmed, and in better mindset for learning, when they are having fun. You’re together with your team for 40, 50 or more hours per week. Why shouldn’t you have a good time while you are working hard together to grow your business?

SummitHRD works with mid-market businesses that are determined to achieve the next level of performance. We provide a framework for industry-leading profitability and sustainable growth.