I’d previously written about how this year has very much been about organization building.  Implementing Traction has been a core part of our 2015 transformation.  One of the key elements of Traction is setting quarterly goals, called Rocks.

Rocks = Progress

The concept of Rocks is an amazing one.  They are goals that you have an entire quarter to accomplish.  Sounds great!  The trade off is that they absolutely must be completed.  It sets a quarterly planning tempo based on incremental improvements.

Whether you’re locked in on your todos or need to continually remind yourself (like me), Rocks provide you a top level todo list.  Whenever I’m not entirely sure what I should be doing with my time on any given moment, I look to my own Rocks.

Designer Jewels

Deciding on what a rock should be and how it gets written is truly an art form.  Over the last 3 quarters, I’ve had a chance to see well crafted rocks as well as poorly designed ones.  Cut yourself some slack as this is a skill you’ll acquire over time.  It’s important that rocks be definitive activities that can actually be accomplished.

“Make so-and-so my friend.”  Is not a good a rock.  Why?  Because you can’t for sure know when and if that has happened.  Alternatively, think of something like inviting out key partners for lunch each month or planning a party.

I also don’t like to make planning a rock. “Let’s decide our plan for XYZ.”  That can be as simple as a doc with a 3 bulleted list.  It’s better then, to do some planning to figure out where effort should be applied and then make one of those particular tasks or strategies a rock.

Those in the sales realm almost certainly have a rock or two with specific metrics in it.  These make for great rocks because they are definitive!  Even those not in sales can often look to see if a metric might apply to their rocks.

Hiring can be a rock.  It’s a tricky one though.  The only time a new position should be a rock is if it needs to happen no matter how business progresses over the next 3 months.  We once created a rock around hiring an individual contributor for particular operations team.  It was based on growth for that group, but midway through the quarter we realized that the other team was the one experiencing the growth and we shouldn’t actually hire for this position.  Alternatively, when deciding we absolutely need a leader for a team or a controller for the L10 team, those are appropriate rocks.

Less is More

When it comes to planning a quarter, and your company/individual Rocks, less is more.  It’s important to only set a couple.  Having 12 rocks, only to accomplish 2 of them isn’t planning at all.  It certainly isn’t planning for success.  On our leadership team (We call it the L10 Team.) each member typically has 3-4 rocks.  Some might even call that too many. Everyone else in the company has one rock.  The goal, again, is not to solve all of the world’s problems this quarter, but rather make small, deliberate improvements forward.

Crushed Rocks are Gravel

A completed Rock is crushed into “Gravel.”  This is a fun and accurate way of seeing these goals accomplished.  We have a separate tab called Gravel to keep track of Rocks.  This is an important final step because as you look back on a long list of collective todos and see your organization get traction.