Podcast Episode 91 – The Quarterly Execution Planning meeting

The Quarterly Execution Planning meeting is one of the most important meetings because it is where a leadership team decides the priorities for the company and the priorities for each department for the following quarter.

The quarterly meeting takes the strategy from the annual meeting, and translates it into practical, executable goals for the team to focus on in the next 90 days – ensuring everyone is crystal clear on their marching orders.

In this episode, Brad and Kevin discuss why you need a Quarterly Execution Planning meeting, what a quarterly meeting agenda must include, and tips for a successful meeting.




Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Brad Giles  00:00

Welcome to the Growth Whisperers where everything we talk about is building enduring great companies – that is companies that will endure, companies that will be great. Every week, Kevin Lawrence, and I talk about this. And here he is the man himself, Kevin Lawrence. G’day, Kevin, how are you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  01:57

I’m doing great, Brad. I’m really enjoying the series that we’re doing around meetings, because we spend so much of our time, you know, helping to drive these meetings. And we also know people get driven crazy by an ineffective meeting.

Brad Giles  02:11

Indeed. And so we always like to start with a word or phrase of the day, what have you got today?

Kevin Lawrence  02:19

Challenged is the word, challenged. It’s interesting that we take things for granted in where I live in Vancouver. I live between two places, Vancouver, and another place called Kelowna, and all the roads washed out in a big storm. And there’s four major roads that go from Vancouver, back and forth. And I’m hearing that we might not these are highways, that these highways may not be a viable, unless it’s essential use for months. I used to drive back and forth every week between these two areas. And so now I got to fly. Because I actually can’t, I could drive once I could bring one vehicle through because it could be heading to my house. And they’re trying to make it for all the essential goods, including, you know, fuel because one of the pipelines I think was shut down. So it’s, it’s wild. It’s just it’s, it’s, you know, you drive these roads all the time, you never even contemplate them not being available. And so it’s really so I would say, logistically challenged myself, I guess would be the best way to put it. It’s as I was looking at my calendar for the month of January for every March. I just started going. Okay, I really got to think about this. How is this gonna work? Yeah, it was interesting. First world problems. But problems nonetheless, in my mind?

Brad Giles  03:44

Well, mine is, you know, you’re only as good as your weakest part. And so I had a flat tire in a car yesterday, something that I haven’t had for a very long time. And I’ve got a German car, and I won’t name the make. But yeah, getting a flat tire. A few hours from home in the country was not fun. And it just reinforced some of the frustrating things about an exotic car or, you know, a car that’s not really built for these conditions, I guess, is what I’d say. And that made me think that you’re only in our offerings, you know, people see all of the parts, and you’re only as good as your weakest part.

Kevin Lawrence  04:36

Right? Right. So we both have something in common Brad, if we sew these together, you know, our logistics system is only good as the weakest part of the road. And so when part of the road washes out, the roads useless. When part of the car doesn’t function. It’s useless. So you’re and hence why airplanes and many things have backup systems, redundant systems. So if one goes down, you’re still good to go. So quarterly meetings, the quarterly execution planning, meeting, a critical meeting, one that you know that we’ve been part of hundreds, I’m pretty safe to say if I did the math, it’s 1000s of these that I’ve been involved in, they can be incredibly effective, they can be incredibly ineffective if you’re not careful. Normally, when they’re ineffective, it’s because the agenda has not been well designed. And or people aren’t well prepared, or the person supposed to be running the meeting isn’t that effective themselves.

Brad Giles  05:38

You know, we operate on 90 days sprints. This is the second in this five part series talking about the meeting rhythm. Last week, we did the annual strategic thinking meeting, which is, you know, two to three day typical meeting. But this is about the quarterly execution planning meeting. And so whatever our strategy is, that’s been determined from the annual meeting, this is where we get down to the real execution planning, this is where we get to identify what it is that is worthy of effort in the next 90 days for the company, for the departments for the individuals, so that we can give ourselves the best chance of success.

Kevin Lawrence  06:29

Yeah, it’s an absolutely critical meeting and a critical, critical discipline, to take time every 90 days to reset the plan. Because the annual plan you have is a great hypothesis, things change, you learn new things, never mind, market conditions might change, or internal factors would change that might need different types of attention. So yeah, critical meeting. And you know, the key things is, it’s one to two days, every 90 days, it’s a serious commitment. But it’s the time when you bring everyone back together, you take and are held accountable or hold yourself accountable for what you committed to last time. And then as a result of those learning and improvements that will come out of it every single time if you run the meeting, right?

Brad Giles  07:12

You know, it’s not very often that I go New Age. But I’ve got a theory about the effectiveness of quarterly execution planning meetings, and why they’re quarterly. And that is that the our body, our mind has evolved over millions, if not 10s, of 1000s of years. And every 90 days, the season changes. And so, you know, spring, summer, autumn winter. And so my theory is that at a biological level, we need to operate in these types of 90 days sprint, and that’s why it’s not 60 or 70 days, and why it’s not 110 days. That’s why because at a biological level, it feels right for us to have change after 90 days. And it feels like that’s something that’s achievable.

Kevin Lawrence  08:10

So the biologist and Brad says it’s because the changing seasons. And you know, someone tried doing it twice a year, and it wasn’t enough. So they said, well, let’s do it twice more. So what works? Are they your sounds much more intelligent. The fact of the matter is that there’s a point of where we just need to recalibrate, we’ve got some companies who do many versions monthly, you’re really moving quickly, people can drop it down to monthly. The thing is, it takes time to really reflect properly. So the more frequently do it, it’s it can be beneficial. It also can be challenging. So let’s look at the key things that we want to do. First of all, ideally, you’re off site, not in your office, again, just like with an animal, and you will you get distracted when you’re in the business. So ideally, getting out of the business. Now, many people are also doing a lot of these virtually over COVID people figured out you could we run so many meetings virtually on a quarterly basis. And many companies are going to continue to keep them virtual, because it’s very effective and efficient. You just don’t get all the relationship building piece and the bonding that comes out. But the idea is it aside from it being a critical and a reset that the first point, though, is that it matters because it really helps us to be accountable to what we did. And then to identify what our next set of priorities are, what are our next marching orders, what are our next set of goals or priorities for the next 90 days? So we’re all crystal clear and aligned on that. So that’s number one. The most important output, what are we getting?

Brad Giles  09:51

Stuff happens between the annual and the first quarterly or the first and the second quarterly? That stuff means that priorities that we thought we might have 90 or 190 days ago, whenever it is, they will change. And so this answers the question, what are our priorities? Yeah.

Kevin Lawrence  10:13

The second major point is, is the, the meeting starts, it’s a look back. It’s a review of how we did it’s an accountability session, we committed to these things, how did we actually do? And then evaluating both the financials, how we did, how we did on our goals, a review of our people, how our people were performing, and what do we need to adjust with our people? And just taking a look at these different aspects of our business? And seeing what is really working? And what we know, Jim Collins calls mining the brutal facts, what are the really good opportunities or the things that are maybe challenging and not working? Interestingly, in that review, we often have people do a talent review of their key seats or key leaders that they present, and what they’re going to do to strengthen that team. We also do a bit of a culture review, we have a mini pulse survey that we do either one, two or three layers deep in an organization to see what’s going on and how the other people are thinking and feeling at this time, so that we’re not caught by surprise, or we’re not thinking that we’re leading the teams well, but really creating problems. So it’s, you know, you some companies get deeper, some stay a little bit more simpler, but the key is a true reflection of how you’ve been performing.

Brad Giles  11:31

And so you touched on the brutal fact that we’ve done an episode on that episode 59. Confront the brutal facts, Jim Collins Miss method for Team hygiene. So you can refer back to that. And what that means it’s such an important part, confronting the brutal facts, every single quarter.

Kevin Lawrence  11:50

Say it’s an agenda point on mural digitally, or a flip chart on paper where we make a list every single meeting? So I brought a jump, I jumped in there too quickly. And you’re in the middle of saying something?

Brad Giles  12:00

No, no, no, no, that’s exactly what we do. You’ve got to have it as a part of your quarterly agenda. Yep. And so we move on to we’ve got the quarterly review, the previous quarters review, we move on to the core ideologies. So what are the core values? Stories? What are the core purpose stories? People aligned? What are the actions to live as we would say? So how do we get more people to understand the values and the purpose and the BHAG more deeply?

Kevin Lawrence  12:29

Yeah, and there’s a piece of that, that we do when we do our cultural review that pulse survey, it gives us some other things that we actually mind the brutal facts and a few other things. But just knowing that we got to keep breathing life into this culture and these core ideologies, because if not guaranteed, they become corporate wallpaper, just blah, blah, blah, up on the walls and posters that aren’t being lived and breathed and felt in the organization. And we got to keep helping it along.

Brad Giles  12:55

Mm hmm. And so then once we’ve covered off the core ideologies, we move to the next point that we have to consider in a quarterly execution planning meeting, to review and test the strategy. Remember that we’ve set the strategy at the annual, and we’ve evolved the strategy at the annual strategic thinking meeting. And so how are we performing in context to that, or maybe we’re going to test some aspects, perhaps we’re going to dig into the five forces or use another tool, perhaps we’re going to evolve. If we’re a bit earlier in the program, let’s say, or the journey, perhaps we’re going to evolve? What is our understanding of the flywheel or whatever concept or tool we’re using? So there’s some time that’s allocated in there, to review and to test and to ideate.

Kevin Lawrence  13:47

Yeah, and then the next piece is, is to resolve big issues. We call it strategic discussions, having time when we’re all together, to debate really, really important things. So one of the last meetings where I was in with this, we were debating the COVID policy one, what was the policy, but to how do we roll it out properly, being mindful of our own values and the respect that we have for people on our team. But it could be that acquisition that you want to do, or it could be a new type of customer that you want to open up and start working with, or it could be a new strategic partnership or piece of who knows. There’s always debates that that core team needs to have to help us to get clear on what we need to do to continue to win could be around strategy execution, doesn’t matter what time to dig in. And you know, in some one of the companies I work with, we spend of two days a day and a half just debating key strategic things so we can align and decide and move forward.

Brad Giles  14:46

Think about it this way. If you’re going to reset it, we’ve covered off what happened last quarter, and there are some things in the business that we have to incorporate into our quarterly priorities. So we can really set our quarterly priorities until we’ve covered off debated, argued, decided on a few items. That’s the kind of stuff that we’re talking about.

Kevin Lawrence  15:12

It’s critical. And it’s the time when we’re together, we can do it, often someone will make a presentation, my rule of thumb is 10 minutes, you got 10 minutes to present. And then we can debate it, but it’s debate, get the best ideas and align and make a decision or debate, get the best ideas, and then the person in charge will take those and run with it. Number six is learning, you know, whenever we can make it work, we like to get the whole team reading a book, and whatever that book is a book relevant to how we want to or what we need to do to win this year. And then we have a discussion around it, what the learning is from it, which, you know, helps to make sure people read it and listen to it. And then talking about how we can apply this. So for example, we did a meeting last week. And we had all read, there’s a simple summary book of Porter’s work this that that cartoon book called What a strategy. And we sat and we discussed it. And we went through it and had a conversation about what was valuable about it. What do we think about this in our context? And then what do we need to do? Not shockingly, some insights. Now book ended up this organization now wants to do the five forces, which they haven’t done yet. And and and it’s got everyone thinking more about competitive strategy, versus, you know, selling in a potentially, you know, what would be called a red ocean, but the point of it is having a discussion. And then at the end, we pick the one, what are we going to read next quarter. Now, either it’s a discussion, someone presents it whatever it happens to be, but it’s really, really key to have time where we learn together and grow together. And if it fits the agenda, it’s very powerful.

Brad Giles  16:47

Yeah, learning. Here’s the thing about learning that people may not consider. Imagine if this stuff actually works. Imagine, right? Well, the revenues grow, the margins grow, the size of the team grows, the complexity grows. In that environment, we need to stay ahead of that curve. And that means everyone in the leadership team has to continually learn how to do their job better, how to become more effective as leaders, because most times, most of the people in most of the jobs have are at the highest level in a firm that they’ve been before most of the time. And so therefore, we’re always breaking new ground in terms of things that we’re learning. And so we need to curate that as a leadership team.

Kevin Lawrence  17:34

Yeah, and often we need to re learn it, we’ll go back and read books again. And a lot of these companies, we need refreshers, or there’s new people in a team that haven’t read these things. So super powerful port. And it’s a discipline just to continue to stay sharp. And although it’s not enough, we need more learning than just that. But that’s a good start.

Brad Giles  17:53

Yeah, and then we move on to the 90 day execution plan. And so that is the priorities, the smart priorities for the company, for the department for the individual. Now, I like to say that all through our time together a day, some companies have two days, we’re looking through all of these different lenses to identify potential priorities, through even through the strategic review, even through the brutal facts, everything that we’re doing, we’re trying to find any potential priorities. And then toward the end of the session, we get this whole collective of ideas that we can then categorize and maybe some get thrown out, but we’ve got some real substance to work with, in order to set our 90 Day plans. So everybody should be walking away with a individual, smart set of goals, ideally, three to five, department and Company.

Kevin Lawrence  18:53

Yep. And the idea is, you mentioned Brad, as you go through the meeting, you’re looking for the things that need to become goals, or some stuff doesn’t, you know, a lot of stuff just might be a little task that someone does, or we leave it and deal with it in the future. But we got to boil down to a set of commitments that we’re all going to march towards. So the quarterly meetings are outstanding. And you know, and some people say, Why do you need to do every 90 days, it’s because it works. It becomes this learning and growth flywheel for the business where you evaluate, get a little bit smarter, get realigned, and then go and do it again. And it starts to get fragmented, but every 90 days, you’re coming back and resetting. I just, I love that discipline. And you know, we’ve got a whole bunch of people on our team that do these for companies, and they have us do them for years, if not decades. Because the bigger piece of this is organizing and running these meetings is a job. It’s a project. It takes a lot of prep and skill. And so a lot of people would rather outsource it to experts like us to run these meetings, forgetting even the content and perspective and expertise we have because we’ve helped so many companies Just the basic of having someone to run an effective meeting and make good use of your time is incredibly, incredibly valuable.

Brad Giles  20:07

Awesome. So let’s move to review the quarterly execution planning meeting. So, one to two days, it matters because it answers the question, what is the priorities? What are the priorities for the business, the individual, the department, etc? And that is a really important question, because it tells us where to focus our effort. And there’s no shortage of distractions out there. Sick. So the first point in the agenda is that we go through into a previous quarter review. And then next, we’re talking about the core ideologies. Kevin, do you want to take us on to the next one?

Kevin Lawrence  20:48

We’re reviewing test the strategy. We’re almost always working on some different strategic models, and we’re reviewing tests and update the pieces that we’re working on to make sure that are still relevant, or updating with data we’ve got from testing things in the field. Then we go and debate and resolve key issues, whether it’s solving a problem or getting aligned around key things that we need to do and be on the same page with, then we have time for learning so we can learn and grow and get smarter together, and whether we’re learning something for the first time, or we’re going back and refreshing and learning again to touch up our skills. And then finally dropping it into a 90 day execution plan where the rubber hits the road. We have a plan for the company, a plan for each of the teams, and then ideally a plan for each of the individuals. So everyone is crystal clear on their marching orders for the next 90 days.

Kevin Lawrence  21:40

So hey, I hope you’ve enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening. This has been the growth whisperers podcast with Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence. You can get each of us on our newsletters and you should because we got a newsletter sharing our best insights on a weekly basis. Brads’ you can find on his website, evolution. partners.com.au also more about Brad and what they do at his firm. And same for myself, Kevin, you can get it Lawrence and co.com lots of free resources. Learn about what we do and get newsletter to help you to stay sharp and continuing to build an enduring great company. Hope you have an awesome week!