At the time I’m writing this, the next quarter - Q3 2018 — is just around the corner. I’m guessing I’m not the only one thinking about what's next. Something about a new quarter combined with a new FY (for my Aussie peeps at least) brings out the Nir Eyal in all of us.
One way product managers stay on top of their game is to plan quarterly then consistently communicate what we’ve done, how it went - what we’re doing now & why & what’s next & why. One way product managers fall behind is by drowning in admin overhead. Your quarterly planning, strategy execution & communications should be clear, effective, easy to maintain & update.
To make it super easy for you to handle your quarterly planning & strategy execution - I've created initiative.ly - a quarterly planning & strategy execution tool. I'm offering you a free quarter to kick the tyres & see how well this tool works for you. Start your trial now & read along to see how initiative.ly can help you.
Static documents are out of date the second you press print which is a problem. Spreadsheets can get you some of the way if you set them up well, however at a point well before real usefulness the admin overhead of maintaining the sheet will become a burden.
Ideally you need updates to be in a consistent format, timestamped as well as attributed to the person updating. You need the ability to quickly, easily check the history for a measure, or Initiative ideally without changing apps.
Initiative.ly structures, presents & visualizes your progress over time in a centralized place. Your team can log in to leave their updates & you can present directly from the app, export reports or invite stakeholders to browse at their leisure. Historical updates are presented chronologically so you're comparing apples with apples.
Your call ultimately, I suggest in the last weeks of the current quarter start to build up the fidelity of your next quarter. Ideally you really consider the work you have in progress right now & how that work might impact your future plans.
Your organization may ask for your plans to be delivered earlier, if that's the case you can always edit/delete & move goals, measures & initiatives around easily within initiative.ly
Don't create static documents weekly, fortnightly or even monthly. Don't wrangle a spreadsheet into submission. Do use purpose built software to structure quarterly goals, plans & strategy execution.
Start your trial & read on below, planning is a 3 to 4 step process depending on your situation. We'll go through each step & qualify what needs to be done at each point.
These are the 4 steps we'll explore
No pressure but try to nail your Goals up-front & keep them static over a quarter. If you change goals on the fly you risk losing confidence from stakeholders & engagement from your team.
Here are some example goals to get you thinking:
Note: When your quarterly goals truly roll up to the 12 month & longer goals of your business you gain stability from internal & external factors.
Scrappy early stage startup? Use your mission, vision & north star to articulate ambitious quarterly goals.
Scaleup? in your groove, growing rapidly, know your value prop, have a maturing sales process? Work backwards from yearly goals, forecasts, outcomes to break down into quarterly goals.
Fast growth correlates with changing goal posts & new hires. Noise & energy whipping around could easily drown out the mission & vision - this is bad - original hirers could become disillusioned, new starters are often executing with no context - either can leave you dead in the water fast.
Initiative.ly provides context to new starters & reinforces “why” so they can fill in the “what”. Initiative.ly enables us to easily seek the truth regarding what we did, why & how it performed. That last point is super important, most companies don’t have this.
Rubber, meet road. Measuring progress is crucial in business, in life - if you can't measure it or won't - it isn't going to grow. Ideally each of your goals has 2-3 measures. Why? we want to ensure we’re not making “fake growth”. Fake growth is growth in one metric at the expense of another equally important metric. At best fake growth means your growth goes sideways, at worst fake growth kills your business silently.
Measures could change over the course of a quarter & a single measure can contribute to different Goals, initiative.ly allows measures to be assigned to multiple goals. Measures should roll up to revenue (assuming your companies aims to make money) be easy to understand, straightforward to track.
This is the work - the research, the projects, the programs, the assumptions we’re testing.
Are you following along? If yes, note that initiatives can be assigned to users. Invite colleages who'll be working on this initiative to join as you create them an initiative.
Boil it down to 3-5 goals is a pretty common mantra, simple is better. However, in some situations you may need 3-5 goals per team, per area of focus or business unit. In this case use categories to organise your Goals, Measures & Initiatives.
Many teams? Name categories after each team’s function e.g:
Many areas of focus? Create a category for each e.g:
Various business units? Name categories accordingly e.g:
Time to go forth and execute. If you've created an Initiative.ly trial & inputted your goals, measures & initiatives already - you've increased your chances of success this quarter. I suggest you add progress notes & updates daily, weekly or as works best for you. This will remind you and your team of what was said, done, promised - keeping everyone on the same page & accountable.
For a long time I planned, updated stakeholders, motivated my team & demonstrated alignment through solutions cobbled together using Trello, Jira, Spreadsheets & PowerPoint. I accepted the admin overhead as price of admission.
To make it easy for me & you, I built initiative.ly - a quarterly planning, strategy execution tool. Initiative.ly will help you:
Initiative.ly becomes a system of recording meaning you can easily understand past quarter plans & performance - you can also provide a wealth of context to new people on your team.
Sign up for a free trial now, we'd love to hear your feedback.
This, is a quick overview of how Initiative.ly looks once you're up & running.
This, is your view of how the metrics which matter have or are performing over a quarter.
This is your view of the key dates in this quarter.
This, how you understand the level of activity from different teams or behind different Goals. You can see if there is enough work planned, completed or in progress for a certain Goal.