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BIG ROCKS

Life just super busy? Feel like you’re being pulled in a million directions? Can’t seem to get ahead of work, kids, spouse, and when did you last actually do something for yourself and go for exercise?

This sound familiar? This is a life led through sand, as opposed to a Big Rocks approach. Let me explain.

Stephen Covey calls it the Inside-Out approach, where you first decide your principles, and then execute on your priorities according to your principles. The metaphor is that if you have a jar 60% full of sand and a jar 60% full of big rocks, and you need to get the big rocks into the other jar – well, throw the sand out first, put the big rocks in, recover with the sand. Hey, you might lose some sand – but it’s just sand, hey. It’s all the tiny things that occupy time and space that actually don’t serve us, and if we let go of some of it, would we even notice? But Big Rocks? Those things that are important? They do need to be packed in there, and they should go first.

So a few things are obvious. Big Rocks related to spouse, health, etc. – that is easier for me, but I know many others that struggle with this. This article is not about instilling a personal habit on Big Rocks, but rather about the hard work of knowing which rocks to schedule for the organization. For personally living a principle-centred life using Big Rocks, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is your go-to manual. But to execute it is harder. Let’s move on to the harder thing of how you do this in teams…

I’m a 7 Enneagram (That’s an Enthusiastic Visionary). I go boldly, but I don’t always do the work or ask the tough questions up front, and I end up fixing things as I go along. I’m not a great fan of the 6 (The Loyal Skeptic). You see, the sixes are a bit more paranoid. They are risk averse, they are quick to spot holes in your plan, they are DOWNERS man.

But you know what I’ve learned? They can be right. More importantly, they are often right, because they do the work.

So how does one boldly go, but also listen to the skeptics? How do you distill their thinking into manageable risks, but still press play on viable projects? I have learned a couple of techniques over the years. This week I’ll talk about the Business Model Canvas, and next week we’ll have a look at the Pre-Mortem.

I talked last week about how being BEBEMS (Big Ears Big Eyes Mouth Small) is tough when you start a new job or project. You are, after all, expected to lead and lead boldly. But maybe you can do the work, and listen to some less-than-sunny voices too.

How do we set the big rocks for the company? We have a couple of big projects lined up, there are people passionate and serious about making things happen… but are they the right opportunities? Should this be where we put our focus?

Go to a great book called ‘Business Model Generation’. It asks the question on any new projects or big initiatives in the context of a few pertinent areas:

Customer value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key partners, key activities, and cost structure.

Engaging with the team through the lens of this tool helps clarify thinking, and will unearth themes that will dictate your Big Rocks.

CUSTOMER SEGMENTS and CHANNELS don’t line up? My key customer is from the US, but I point most of my resources at work in South Africa? Problem.

KEY PARTNERS: Do my KEY ACTIVITIES include touchpoints with key partners to make sure those relationships are nurtured?

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS and CUSTOMER VALUE PROPOSITION: Do I pursue and maintain key relationships aligned with the value that I want to create?

Once you have your themes, you can go to shaping PRIORITIES. Those PRIORITIES should contain a list of actionable items that support delivery on that priority. Google calls these OKRs – Objectives and Key Results. And these OKRs will shape all the key focus areas for the organization in the short term.

Or should they? Next week we’ll chat about the pre-mortem…

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