In the last few months, I read a book called The 12 Week Year. They claim to want to accomplish more in 12 weeks than others do in a year. And the mission is that if we lived the real life that we are capable of living, people will be able to live there. Execution is the key differentiator. As a result, they are de-emphasizing annual plans, which are typically reviewed in November or December. You know, I’ve worked for Fortune 500 corporations. And, yeah, the fourth quarter was, like, holy cow, we were like 30% or 40% behind where we were supposed to be. And we didn’t complete this, that, and the other thing that we thought was important a year ago when we made these plans. Brian Moran and Michael Lennington are the authors. They emphasize getting rid of your annual thinking and planning. Because it’s ineffective. They discuss the importance of setting deadlines.
How many of you establish deadlines? Do you impose deadlines? Because their emphasis is, and I know this from personal experience, deadlines motivate me more, you know, I get more done. Even if the deadlines are self-imposed, I get more done. When I have a deadline coming up. They discuss breaking free from the confines of annual planning. Break free from the confines of long-term planning. There is one place where they do speak, and I’ll get to that in a moment.
Sir William Osler, the founder of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, provided an interesting perspective. He stated that “We plan for the future but act in the day”. As a result, one of the keys to the 12-week year is the significance of daily activities during the 12-week period. They emphasize the importance of knowing your numbers. I don’t care what line of work you’re in. And I’ve been saying it for 25 years.
Know your numbers, the best business people I’ve ever seen. They know their numbers off the top of their heads and don’t even need to look them up. At least the key numbers, the key performance indicators in their business, but more control over our actions. We have more control over our actions than we do over our outcomes. And it’s intriguing. And, once again, I’ve learned this over the last 20, 25 years of looking at what is now famously or regularly referred to as Leading Indicators. I looked at leading indicators. What are the key leading indicators that lead me to the desired lagging indicator? The sale is a great example of a lagging indicator.
However, the leading indicators are things like how many leads I get and how many I need to generate a sale. What is my lead-to-sale conversion rate? What about sales process steps? Do you even have a sales process in place? What if you do? Are you tracking the indicators within your sales process, as well as the conversion points from steps one to two, two to three, and so on? So know your figures. Understand the leading indicators because we have more control over our actions, which are the leading indicators than we do over the results, which in my example are sales.
So know what’s most important. Recognize that you must do those things and make a commitment to carrying out the keystone or core actions. I love this quote from Jack Welch, and they incorporate it into the book. He claims that “We have work-life choices, not work-life balance”. Again, I believe that is a very clear message. The big thing in the book, probably a third of the book, is about an execution system. So I’m not going to spend much time there. However, they have a system in place to implement the 12-week year concept.
And now, the place where they do talk about law, a long-term perspective, is creating a vision. They believe that it all starts with having a very clear, strong, and purposeful vision. That will guide your daily actions. So you can look at three years or five years, and part of their execution system begins with the vision and the creation of that vision. And I’ve heard it from several prominent business leaders in the last few years. When I interview people about how they started their businesses? Why did they start their business? What were the motivations? And it frequently comes down to the true purpose that they had in mind.
The true impact they were going to make by starting this business. And so, Moran and Lennington talk about, probably the only time they talk about looking yours out when you’re creating that vision. So that it is crystal clear why you get out of bed every day. And then, once again, at the end of the execution system, there is this 12-week plan. It is necessary to complete critical, strategic tasks on a weekly basis. It is not a glorified to-do list.
This is crucial. If you take nothing else away from today, consider the impact you can have by thinking and planning weekly for getting the things done that are critical to your business, and that are strategic in your business. And not just having a long to-do list. And, I hate to say it, especially if you’re a guy. But men love to-do lists; they like to cross something off and say, I had seven things to do today. And I completed all of them. And here’s the list, with everything crossed off.
That isn’t going to get you where you want to go, and it isn’t the most important thing. That is not doing the most strategic and critical things in your company. So I wanted to share that 12-week year now. To be candid and honest, I’ve started doing this. And I’ll tell you that one of the most significant impacts I’ve had as a result of this is the critical nature of the tasks that must be completed in order for me to fulfill my purpose for my business and achieve the vision that I have for it. And weekly.
To be honest, I still have a to-do list, but I make sure that the most strategic things I need to do each week are highlighted and identified on those lists. And then, as I plan my weeks, I go day by day, with a sheet for each day. And I know exactly what critical strategic tasks must be completed in order for me to achieve my vision and purpose.