The CEO Imperative: Set the Annual Rhythm

January 27, 2010

Ahh, the new year… when the year-to-date bookings dashboard goes back to zero, the goal for the year is even bigger than last year, and it’s off to the races again. We have just completed our annual planning cycle with the portfolio companies. We have been encouraging the CEOs to leverage our Extraordinary Execution framework for setting the periodic rhythms within their organizations.

I spent two days last week with the AtTask senior team developing the 2010 strategic themes for the company and identifying and prioritizing the Q1 goals goals. Here are some thoughts on what made that meeting exceptionally energizing and productive.

Start with the two-year vision

Always start the year by looking two years out. Figure out what you want the company to look like then, and work your way back. The current year should always be a setup for the following year. Scott Johnson started off by asking us to envision what we think AtTask can/should look like by the end of 2011, and to write down our goals for the company at the end of that year. The list we ended up with is a fascinating glimpse to the big ambitions of the team. Part of the list includes:

  • 100% growth in bookings over 2010
  • 300% bookings growth in EMEA over 2010
  • $xM in profit (number hidden to protect the innocent)
  • Market Development (hidden to protect the innocent)
  • Get out of the weeds (each executive has a successor)
  • AtTask has best up-time reputation in SaaS market
  • AtTask is worldwide brand name

Follow with this year’s associated strategic themes

What do we need to end up with this year so we can achieve the following year’s goals? In our Extraordinary Execution framework, we’ve leveraged strategy mapping as a guide to ensuring comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the business. The strategic themes should align with the strategy map components:

  • Financial perspective: what are our financial targets?
  • Economic Model perspective: how capital efficient or profitable do we want to be?
  • Customer/market perspective: what do we want our prospects/customers/partners to say/think about us?
  • Company output: how do we want the market to experience our service, product, interactions?
  • Internal methodologies: how do we optimize our internal processes?
  • People: how do we hire the best and enable them to be the best?
  • Organizational methodologies: how do we institutionalize the optimal management rhythm and execution?

Translate strategic themes to next quarter’s goals

What do we need to do this quarter and how do we measure success?

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

Inevitably, you will end up with too many goals. Force rank the goals so that each senior executive has no more than three goals for the quarter. The key question is: what are the three most important things you need to nail this quarter? Followed by: what are the things we need to take off your plate so you can nail those three most important things?

Through this process, the AtTask senior team had its annual and quarterly rhythm set. The quarterly goals then turn into specific initiatives that are executed on a weekly and monthly basis. And the gears are in motion.

The key message here is that business growth strategies cannot be developed in a vacuum. Business strategies need to be coupled with the associated operational and organizational initiatives that will turn strategies into execution.

The Chief Executive Officer

Firas was previously a venture capitalist at Openview. He has returned to his operational roots and now works as The Chief Executive Officer of Everteam and is also the Founder of <a href="">nsquared advisory</a>. Previously, he helped launch a VC fund, start and grow a successful software company and also served time as an obscenely expensive consultant, where he helped multi-billion-dollar companies get their operations back on track.