In an effort to improve, most companies and individuals will search for new ideas and strategies. They will seek out new marketing techniques, sales ideas, cost-cutting measures and customer service enhancements, hoping that these new approaches will deliver better results.

The number one factor holding individuals, and entire companies back from achieving what they are truly capable of is not a lack of knowledge, intellect or information. It’s not some new strategy or idea. It’s not additional training. It’s not a larger network of “connected” people. It’s not hard work, natural talent or luck. Of course all these things help, they all play a factor, but they are not the things that make the difference.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying that knowledge is power. Knowledge is only powerful if you use it, if you act on it. It benefits no one unless the person acquiring the knowledge does something with it. And great ideas; well, great ideas are worthless unless they are implemented. The marketplace only rewards those ideas that get implemented.  You can be smart, you can have access to lots of information and great ideas, you can be well-connected, work hard and have lots of natural talent, but in the end, you have to execute.

Execution is the single greatest market-differentiator. Great companies and successful individuals execute better than their competition.

The barrier standing between you and the life you are capable of living is a lack of consistent execution. Effective execution will set you free. It is THE path to accomplish the things you desire.

The 12 Week Year

One of the things that gets in the way of individuals and organization effectively executing and achieving their best is the annual planning process. As strange as this is going to sound, annual goals and plans are often a barrier to high performance. This doesn’t mean annual goals and plans don’t have a positive impact, they do. There is no question you will do better with annual goals and plans, than without any goals or plans. However, this annual process inherently limits performance.

The trap is referred to as “annualized thinking.” At the heart of annualized thinking is an unspoken belief that there is plenty of time in the year to make things happen. In January, December looks a long way off.  We mistakenly believe that there is plenty of time in the year, and we act accordingly. We lack a sense of urgency, not realizing that every week is important, every day is important, every moment is important. Ultimately, effective execution happens daily and weekly!

Forget about a year, let’s redefine a year: A year is no longer 12 months, it is now only 12 weeks. That’s right, a year is now a 12 week period. There are no longer four periods in a year; that’s old thinking. Now, there is just a 12 Week Year, followed by the next 12 Week Year, ad infinitum. Each 12 week period stands on its own – it is your year.

The 12 Week Year  creates a new end game date – the point at which you assess your success (or lack thereof). It narrows your focus to the week and more to the point, the day, which is where execution occurs. The 12 Week Year brings that reality front and center. When you set your goals in the context of a 12 week year you no longer have the luxury of putting off the critical activities, thinking to yourself that there is “plenty of time” left in the year. Once 12 weeks becomes your year then each week matters; each day matters; each moment matters.

The result is profound. Most people experience about a 30% in their first 12 weeks when operating on the 12 Week Year platform. Here are three steps to help you achieve more in the next 12 weeks than most will in 12 months: 

  1. Set a 12 Week Goal – Start by establishing a 12 week goal. Annual goals are helpful but they lack immediacy and urgency. 12 week goals create focus and urgency. Get focused on what you want to make happen over the next 12 weeks. The goal should be an outcome – income, sales production, dollars saved, pounds lost, and represent significant progress towards your longer-term vision. Limit your goals to a maximum of three, and make certain each goal is specific and measurable. 
  2. Build a 12 Week Plan – 12 Week Planning is so much more effective than traditional planning because it is more predictable and focused. The key here is less is more. A 12 week plan embraces the notion of “lets be great at a few things versus mediocre at many.” For each goal, you will need to identify tactics. Tactics are the daily and weekly actions that drive the accomplishment of the goal. If the goal is the “where,” then the tactics are the “how.” Here again less is more. Keep it focused on the critical few. Identify the four or five actions that you need to take daily and weekly to accomplish your goal, those are your tactics. 
  3. Apply the Weekly Routine – Having a goal and a plan is helpful, but it’s not enough. The key to your success is executing your plan. To ensure you execute at a high level, adopt the Weekly Routine. If you do the following three things on a weekly basis you can’t help but get better!

The Weekly Routine:

Plan Your Week – Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan your week. Use your 12 Week Plan to ID the tactics that are due this particular week. The Weekly Plan is not a glorified to-do list; rather, it reflects the critical strategic activity that needs to take place this week in order to achieve your 12 Week Goals.         

Score Your Week – At the end of each week you will want to score your execution. In the end you have greater control over your actions than you do your outcomes. The most effective lead indicator you have is a measure of your execution.  You are scoring your execution, not your results. Calculate a weekly execution score by dividing the number of tactics completed by the number due. 

Meet With a Peer Group – Did you know that you are 7 times more likely to be successful if you meet regularly with a group of your peers?  Find two to three other people who are committed and willing to meet for 15-20 minutes each week. In your meeting, report on how you’re doing against your goals and how well you’re executing. Encourage and challenge one another.

That’s it: Three simple steps! Plan your week, score your week, meet with a group of peers; how easy is that? Do them, and you will improve - guaranteed.  Here’s the catch; the steps are easy to do, and even easier not to do. So make a commitment to engage with them for the next 12 weeks, and watch what happens.

Brian Moran, president and founder of Strategic Breakthroughs, has amassed more than 30 years of expertise as an executive, coach and consultant. His new book, “The 12 Week Year” is a powerful guide to creating results through focus, commitment and accountability! To learn more about Brian Moran, visit www.BrianPMoran.com.