90 Day Cadence
This training Topic explains how setting your and reviewing objectives every 90-days is a powerful tool to increase the chances of achieving longer-term goals.
Using a 90-day cadence instils discipline, creates accountability and propels you towards your desired objectives.
The reasons why setting a 90-day cadence is so effective are it provides;
1. focus and agility
2. accountability and measurement
3. momentum and motivation
It can be applied to both personal and business objectives.
Cadence is a regular and repeated pattern of activity, for those of you who are not cyclists.
Therefore planning over 90-day cycles provides a repeated pattern of planning activity to split longer-term plans into more manageable 90-day objectives.
The long-term Vision is a 10-year plan.
That is broken down into 3-3 yearly cycles called goals. (1 spare year for flexibility)
These are broken down into 3, 1 year plans, which contain 4, 90-day cycles.
Focus and Agility
The problem with long and mid-term plans is they appear so far away, almost abstract.
If you have set aspirational, big audacious goals, that seem almost impossible to achieve (good on you) it can become all a bit too much.
Using a 90-day cadence breaks the long-term plan into manageable chunks.
90 days works because humans can just about imagine and relate to the next 3 months’ activities (seasons) and still remain focused.
This is why the financial year is broken into quarters for example.
Businesses use quarterly time frames because psychologists estimate it is as far forward as humans can envisage while still feeling immediate enough that we need to do something about it.
Three months (90 days) is apparently the perfect planning period for that reason.
Breaking the 90-day blocks into 12 weeks, not 13 weeks adds to the urgency, it allows you to plan for a 48-week year not 52 weeks as most do.
It’s not compulsory, but if we’re thinking about the 90-day why does bringing things into breaking that into a 90-day objective work is it makes it feel urgent.
This means that you know what is required in the next 12 or 13 to achieve the desired objective, which means you can produce a weekly plan, that requires action every day.
That is how you break down what seems to be a massive task (your big vision) into 90-day blocks that allow for increased agility and adaptability.
Because we all know that in business and certainly in the motor trade things are changing incredibly quickly. Utilising a 90-day candance enables you to adjust your strategies and tactics more frequently to stay responsive to changes in market conditions and still achieve longer-term plans.
Having weekly meetings is essential to the success of 90-day planning, it provides 12-13 opportunities to report on progress and continuously adjust and fine-tune how to achieve the objectives.
If it is obvious during the week two meeting that things are not going to work out, you can do something about it right there and then, the flexibility of the 90-day cadence enables you to make this change and the urgency of a 90-day objective demands the change.
This same urgency is not felt at week two of a 52-week planning process.
Breaking longer-term plan into a 90-day objective brings that urgency but it also allows for flexibility and agility in your planning.
Accountability and Measurement.
Using 90-day cadence it is easier to track progress and hold yourself and your staff accountable. Setting 90-day Objectives and Key Results, (OKRs) enables you to measure progress against clear milestones and agreed targets during your weekly planning meetings with your team.
Larger organisations will have weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings, but the process is the same.
This cascading method of setting objectives and key results ensures everyone is working towards a common goal.
The business objectives are broken down into team objectives, which can be further broken down to individual responsibilities.
Then during weekly meetings individual targets are measured and progress reported, this feeds into the team meeting which may be monthly, that reports to the CEO quarterly.
Each level of reporting will have different objectives all pulling in the same direction and remember they feed up as well as down that’s the beauty of OKRs.
It is a top-down, bottom-up methodology that fits with a 90-day cadence perfectly.
Whatever the weekly milestone or target, the outcome of that week’s activities will be measured against progress to the objective(s).
Monitoring and evaluating progress allows you to make the necessary adjustments to achieve the desired outcomes.
A simple tracking system ( I use a traffic light system)
Green means on target, and there is nothing that needs to be discussed.
Amber means not on target and it may need to be discussed during the meeting. It may or may not Red requires urgent action and will be on the meeting agenda.
There is no need to go over the figures in forensic detail, the person responsible and accountable for that metric reports either green, amber or red. The manager must trust them to report honestly and accurately.
If all the metrics are green then come the end of the quarter you’re going to meet the objectives that you have set that team or more importantly, they set for themselves.
Remember, they are part of the bigger picture, and share the responsibility for achieving the overall business objectives.
This leads to a more coordinated effort and improved overall performance and brings the whole business together because if one team is struggling with their objectives they may benefit from another team’s experience that exceeds theirs.
Consider the example provided earlier in this training topic.
A metric is flagged red during a weekly meeting.
The individual responsible for the metric has raised a concern during the weekly meeting.
Their strategy is way off, and it has been brought to the team leader’s attention.
During the meeting, it is discussed and another team has had a similar experience and offers a solution.
The following week (week 3 of 12) they report amber, they are making progress due to the cooperation of the other team. Although it was the responsibility of one individual to achieve that metric it is the responsibility of everyone to work together to achieve the overall objectives for the business. Imagine what 90-day objectives can do over a ten-year planning period.
Momentum and Motivation
Breaking your goals into 90-day objectives creates a sense of momentum as you are ticking much smaller waypoints off your list all the time.
Every week you are reporting on the progress you are making, this is why setting objectives and key results are so important.
The objectives are there to set mini-goals and the key results which are measured every week are what you need to do to achieve them. This provides the necessary feedback letting you know if you are being effective.
The urgency created using shorter planning periods provides motivation, because you can see progress or the lack of progress, the agility of this planning format allows you to do something about it, and provides the drive to accomplish even more within each planning cycle.
With practice, you will start to over-achieve and set even bigger goals and objectives.
However, it all comes down to communication during meetings and those weekly, monthly & quarterly deadlines help to serve as effective time management tools.
They enable you to allocate your time and resources more effectively by establishing specific start and endpoints for tasks or projects.
The beauty of this is it forces you to prioritise, to fix first things first, and do what needs doing in the right order.
Without 90-day planning, the end of the year seems so far away you might do things in a haphazard order, but having your objectives and key results set out forces you to prioritise tasks and projects.
Setting deadlines works because some people are hugely motivated by a deadline.
In annual planning with 6 month & 9 month way points you only get 2 maybe 3 deadlines to work to, if you use objectives and key results you get a deadline every week.
Although you’re working towards an objective with a 90-day deadline, it is broken downso that every week you have targets, which results in a deadline every week and that brings real focus and urgency.
The skill with OKRs is setting smart objectives that stretch the team and not lazy 10% improvement objectives. Using the ramp-it-up principle you aim to achieve 20% of the overall 90-day objective in the first month, 30% of the objective in the second, month and 50% in the third month.
Gradually ramping up continuous improvements to achieve 100% in 90-days.
Setting these stretch goals requires practice and it’s a real business skill.
To to to be able to set goals that motivate they need to be just the right size.
To- big and it demotivates, too small and you miss too many opportunities to develop and make progress.
A good rule of thumb for setting goals and objectives is consistently achieving somewhere between 65% and 80%.
Setting stretch goals that are just out of reach serves to motivate your team because they are always striving for that a little bit extra.
However, you may want to drop the expectation slightly every now and again to allow everyone to achieve the goal because that serves to further motivate and then for the next one, ramp it up a bit to keep on target.
And that’s what this planning cycle allows you to do because you’re reviewing every week.
90 Day Cadence-Summary
90-day Cadence requires the business owner and managers to master the art of setting objectives and Key Results.
The frequent deadlines require you to take action. Avoiding procrastination and maintaining a level of productivity that means you complete tasks within set timelines. (as long as they were realistic).
They generate a sense of progress and achievement within the team, fueling further motivation and allowing you to take on bigger and bigger challenges.