The Tracking Review
(The Execution Series, Part 4 of 4)
By John Lamy
Lamy Consulting

The coach is in
About the Author:
John Lamy was an R&D engineering manager with Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley for 25 years, during that time John facilitated the goal setting and achievement process for his HP division. John has 14 years management consulting, seven of them in the Rogue Valley. John and his wife Gail have lived in Jacksonville since 2005. They have one grown son and grandson in California (John & Gail get down there a lot!) For fun they like to hike, kayak, backpack, sail, ski, and walk Shasta, their Springer Spaniel. John has a BS in Electrical Engineering from MIT and an MBA from Cornell University. 541-778-2252
The recommendation is a set of well-designed, cadenced meetings. Yikes, you say! I’ve got way too many of those stupid things already! But, the truth is that, if they’re done correctly, people actually enjoy and appreciate them. We’re social creatures, and progress and creativity do indeed blossom in meetings. And... there seems to be no real alternative if you truly want to achieve your goals.
The following is an example of what some organizations have implemented to achieve solid Tracking for their Execution Framework. Remember that your situation is unique, so you’ll need to design a tracking review system that’s just right for you. There might be five flavors of meetings: The Daily Huddle Highly recommended in production situations, or where the daily coordination of work is critical, or where tight deadlines are looming. Keep them short, maybe 15 minutes max. One way to achieve brevity: no chairs! The Daily Huddle is always stand-up. And the agenda is fairly firm and unchanging. For example, go around the room with
  • What I got done yesterday
  • Roadblocks, difficulties, places I need help (discuss the details and the volunteered assistance outside the meeting as needed)
  • What I plan to do today
  • Coordination I’m counting on today
Two risks that can creep into the Daily Huddle: becoming lax about the agenda, and surprisingly, becoming mindlessly robotic about it! Yes, you do need to keep your lights on and your mind present, even with such a simple format, or it can devolve into plodding routine. The Weekly Staff Meeting This is the foundation for Tracking in the Execution Framework. And it reaches beyond the Big Goals to include general updates and how it’s going with your team, etc. But it’s key to touch on your assigned Tactics, as well as other tasks you’ve taken on that impact the entire team. It’s important to keep it succinct and on topic; we have such a tendency to ramble. The leader needs to take windbags aside after the meeting for a little friendly coaching (don’t embarrass people in front of their peers!). Do provide, each week, a concentrated update on your progress toward your Tactical commitments: successes and milestones, problems you’re encountering, places you could use a little help, things you’ll attack next week, breakthroughs and insights, etc. Some groups distinguish tasks of a week or less from longer term commitments...not a bad idea. I personally think a weekly staff meeting is a must. People say, “Aww, we see each other multiple times every day...we don’t need no stinkin’ meeting!” Sure, but you don’t get the big picture and the cross-communication from your daily touches. A formal meeting has a whole different feeling. And, I think some team leaders are a little frightened of actually leading/facilitating such a meeting. Yes, it’s a bit daunting at first. But learn to ask questions, to provide a framework but not every answer, and to be preoccupied with growing and developing your team...that will help get you out of yourself and your anxieties. Finally, I don’t think the weekly staff meetings replace the need for weekly one-on-ones with your staff. At their workplace, not yours. A close cousin of Managing By Walking Around, aka MBWA, one of the all-time powerful management techniques. Mull that over and see what you think. The Monthly All-Hands Meeting This meeting helps provide the glue that binds your organization’s culture together. The leader gives a brief report on the company’s overall performance; then updates on most or all of the key Tactics as they relate to the Big Goal. It’s a chance to shine a spotlight on a few contributors, emphasizing especially folks down in the trenches and how they’ve helped the company meet its goals. These meetings needn’t be too long. They should always be fun. And sometimes pizza is a good idea!
Last month we described how your team can build an Execution Framework with Goals and Tactics. However...if that’s all you do, your efforts will probably die on the vine! Being human, we seem to need coordinated follow-up to make sure the work is getting done, staying synched, and still relevant.
The Quarterly Review This might be a half-day meeting of the C-Suite, to review each Goal and Tactic in depth. Look critically: are we truly on track? This is the time to carefully consider making changes...adding a Tactic, delaying a goal, assigning someone else, etc. And remember to consider all the company’s goals, including non-breakthrough operational targets and the like. And this is the time for the sniff test: does all this still make sense? Is it working from the 50,000 foot view? Are we staying woke? The Annual Strategic Retreat Start the cycle all over again. Revisit our Core Values, our Strategy, and our Current Issues. What are people saying on the street and in the trenches? From all that, create a unifying Big Goal for the organization for the coming year. Then, what Tactics break out beneath that Goal? Highly recommended. This is what the big guys do, and it works! These are a few ideas for a structured set of meetings whose purpose is the achievement of your Big Goal. Now think for your unique organization: what meetings make sense for you, given your total picture? I hope this Execution Series has been helpful for you. My sense is that this whole Execution Framework process is a bit of a rarity in the Valley, and that many of us could profit from embedding it in our organizations. If you have any thoughts or questions about it, give me a call! I’d welcome your comments!
December: Science & Technology
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