Are your rocks on track?
No, but are they really on track?
How about your team’s rocks? They might say they’re on track, but there’s a common tendency in rock reporting that can mask a serious problem, even among well-intended team members. It might be happening right under your nose.
We’ll get to that in a minute. But let’s back up a bit first. Anyone familiar with the EOS process understands the importance of reporting on rocks. Quick refresher: rocks are strategic priorities for a company, a department, or an individual. Rocks are an essential way to cut through endless to-do lists and focus on important, impactable elements of your business.
One of the ways we monitor rocks for is via weekly check-ins at Level 10 meetings with the people who have ownership of a rock. In theory, the weekly status report of a rock is only one of two reports: on track or off track.
In truth, I’ve found that a report of “on track” can actually mean one of two things:
- Actively on track. When you’re actively on track, it means:
- I’m aware of exactly what has happened
- I’m aware of exactly what needs to happen
- I have the timelines figured out
- I’m on top of this task and I have every reason to believe that this it will be completed on time
- No one can prove that I’m not on track. This gets muddier. In this case, someone will report being “on track” week after week. And it seems fine—there isn’t clear evidence that things have gone awry. There’s nothing tangible of quantifiable that anyonecan point to that demonstrably states that they’re off track, so they report being on track. Yet, toward the end of the quarter when the final deadline looms (often around week ten), people start to admit that they’re not really on track after all. And not only are they off track, but they’ve been misreporting for so long that at this point, they’re way behind.
That second version is far more common than you might think. Even well-meaning, committed employees can get bogged down in their to-do lists and assume that they’ll figure things out eventually. But you can only get away with that for so long.
And here’s the kicker: If they’d just reported accurately as soon as things went slightly off track, adjustments could have been made to prevent things from falling seriously behind. But when they push things off until the timeline catches up with them, they’ve done a disservice to themselves, the project, and everyone involved.
It’s important to get things actively on track starting early in the quarter, because it’s easier to stay actively on track then to have to catch up and get back to being actively on track.
How do you stay actively on track? One solution is to set milestones with clear deadlines along the way so no one can (accurately) rationalize procrastinating on a project. The most important takeaway is to get clear with your team on what it means to truly be on track. Nobody likes hearing on week ten: “Oops…on second thought….”