(615) 656-0465 mark@markskenny.com

Note: this is the third in a new series of weekly tips to build a functional, collaborative, aligned team.

I have a problem at my house: too many home improvement projects. My typical approach is to do a little bit on each project because I feel guilty that I am not working on all of them. The result is that it takes a long time to get projects done.

A much better approach is to rally around one single goal at a time. This seems obvious but for some reason it is much harder in reality.

Recently, my wife and I adopted this approach, and it has paid dividends. We cut down some trees that have been needing to be cut down for a long time, dug up some bushes needing replacement, replenished the lawn, and made some repairs. It feels really good to get all of those done in a short amount of time. We did it by focusing on one big goal at a time.

Most of the teams I work with fall into the same trap. There is so much work to do, so many urgent priorities, that teams either become paralyzed or try to pursue multiple priorities simultaneously. Naturally, this often results in mediocre progress on all of them and team members heading in different directions working on different priorities.

Patrick Lencioni writes about this when he says that if everything is important, nothing is important. He also provides the simple solution: create one overarching short-term goal for the team.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make a list of the team’s everyday operating objectives. These are the objectives for which your team is always responsible – the work it is expected to complete or oversee. Obviously, your team cannot lose sight of these objectives. They are always important. These could be items such as Finances, Marketing, Projects, Cases, etc.
  2. Now that you have identified the everyday work that is important, start focusing on how to improve how you do your work. Specifically, discuss and decide on your one single overarching short-term goal. What is the one goal which, when you accomplish it, your team or organization will be better as a result? Use one of the following questions to guide your discussion:
    • What is the single most important goal for us to accomplish in the next 90 days? (above and beyond our everyday work) or…
    • If we accomplish nothing else in the next 90 days, achieving this one goal will have the biggest impact? or…
    • If every aspect of our operation remained the same, what is the one area where change would have the biggest impact? (this comes from The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chesney, Huling, and Covey).
  3. Now that you have identified the overarching goal, make a list of the defining objectives for your overarching goal. In other words, if we actually accomplished our goal, what are the 4, 5, or 6 objectives that we need to actually do? And if we finished those 4-6 objectives, we will have achieved our overarching goal. Tip: start these with a verb.

Now you have identified what is most important for the team to accomplish and you can put it together in a simple playbook for the team to use in the next 90 days. If you want a Word template of a new version of a team playbook I put together last week, email me and I’ll send it to you.

Here’s an example from a leadership team of a non-profit:

Our Thematic Goal: Get our systems and processes in order.

Our Defining Objectives (to achieve the thematic goal):

  • Create a new member orientation process and checklist.
  • Build a playbook for executing programs.
  • Make a checklist for marketing our programs.
  • Create a system for contacting our members monthly.

Our Everyday Objectives:

  • Finances
  • Programs
  • Membership
  • Marketing

Now go build a functional, collaborative, aligned team!