Weekly check-ins are one of the main tools we use with clients to make sure that the strategic plans we build with the team actually get executed by the team.
That planning process starts with identifying the vision that leadership wants to pursue, and then identifying the one or two strategies that the team can work on over the next 2-3 years that will move us closer to the realization of that vision. Strategic planning is a lot fun, but it doesn’t actually make anything happen. For that we need to focus on execution.
In our work with clients execution happens on a weekly basis. We may only be there every 30 days, that is our normal rhythm with clients, but the plan has to be worked on every week for it to make a difference. So when we meet with clients one of the things we do is finish up with commitments from each team member to move the strategy forward. These are typically things that the team has identified as necessary action steps during the course of our meeting. And someone on the leadership team has volunteered to make sure that action step gets done.
We can think about this process in three steps.
- The team recognizes something that needs to get done to move the strategy forward.
- Someone on the team volunteers to take responsibility for that action item.
- At some point after the meeting (and hopefully before the next meeting) the person responsible actually completes the task.
After hundreds if not thousands of meetings I can tell you that the number one place teams get derailed, stuck, off course and frustrated is between steps 2 and 3. We will often come back 30 days later and find that nothing has been done on the commitments for most team members.
What are we asking of these team members? Not as much as you might think. Even in the most ambitious strategic plans we need a commitment of just 2-3 hours per week from each leader to move the plan forward. But if they are not diligently spending those 2-3 hours on their commitments things grind to a halt.
It is understandable. Everyone we work with has more on their plate than they can get done. They shoulder tons of responsibility and every day surfaces new challenges, fires to put out, demands from customers, needs from employees, and plenty of tempting distractions.
There is one thing that can keep teams on track, that their commitments remain top of mind and that the whirlwind of daily responsibilities doesn’t drown out the hugely important job of working on the business strategy.
The Weekly Check-in is simply a once a week reminder of each person’s commitments. In our check-ins with clients we list the commitments of each person in an email and ask three questions:
- Did you get your stuff done?
- Is there anything else you need to add to your list related to the strategic plan?
- Have any issues surfaced that we need to put on the agenda for our next meeting?
That’s it. And it is incredibly effective. The most important thing about the weekly check-in is that it happens every week no matter what and that it doesn’t shy away from holding anyone accountable.
If you don’t have a weekly check-in process I encourage you to try it. You might find that progress starts happening at a much faster pace than you ever anticipated.