What in the world is a rock? It’s a term used by the business operating system we use at M&R – Entrepeneurial Operating System (EOS). “Rocks are just priorities — the three to seven most important things you must accomplish in the next 90 days.” (source) Since we implemented EOS into our business in 2020, we’ve found rocks to be one of the most important keys to our continued growth. It allows us to focus on what’s most important each quarter and create guidelines for what those priorities should be.
There is a lot of great information in the EOS Traction Library around the concept of rocks. I’ve compiled some of that information, as well as added some insight we’ve gained in managing rocks across 6 different departments and 20+ people.
Step 1: Capture Ideas & Identify Pain Points
When we meet for executive planning each quarter, I come into the meeting with 3-5 ideas for rocks. These ideas haven’t been smartened (more on that later) and they don’t have a rock plan; they are simply ideas. Most often, these ideas occur during the quarter as I’m working through an issue. Because these ideas are not my current priorities, I write them down and include enough detail for me to remember in the future.
When I arrive at a quarterly planning session with a few rock ideas, it typically means the ideas have had time to either fix themselves, prove unimportant, or require current attention.
When we move into rock planning, some of my past ideas make the list. The filter I use when setting rocks is threefold:
- Is the rock connected to the goals of the VTO?
- Is the rock approved by my team?
- Is the rock the absolute most important thing for me to focus on the next 3 months?
Step 2: Make your Rocks SMART
After you have set your rocks, it’s time to clean them up. The more Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely they are, the more likely you are to achieve them. Here’s what it means for a rock to be SMART:
- Specific – be as detailed as possible with the result of your rock. What will it accomplish? What will it look like when it’s complete? The more specific you are, the less room there is to debate whether the desired result was achieved.
- Measurable – the rock should be so specific that you can easily answer whether it was done or not done. If the rock was to create a process and roll it out, but you didn’t have time to roll it out, the rock was not completed and will spill into the next quarter.
- Attainable – this asks if you have the capacity to complete the rock. That capacity could be tied to your time, the internal team’s time to assist your efforts, or the resources needed to support the rock. For example, creating a rock that can only be achieved after finding and deploying a new software will likely make the rock unattainable. Instead, a better rock may be to identify the software needed to address an issue you’re having. You might not solve the core issue until the next quarter.
- Realistic – is the rock possible? Can you complete what you’ve identified within 3 months, while also performing the normal duties of your role. Remember, your rocks should all be tied to the company’s 10-year, 3-year, and 1-year targets, bringing the company 1 step closer toward those goals. We are not trying to accomplish the entire 10-year target in 1 quarter’s time.
- Timely – rocks are a priority, and they have a deadline – the end of the quarter. This is where building out a rock plan helps. If you are taking on more than 1 rock per quarter, be sure to prioritize the company rocks before your personal rocks. Company rocks are tied directly to the VTO and are your greatest priority. If you have capacity remaining, and the rocks are agreed to by your team, you can tackle some personal rocks. These are still important to the health of your department and your daily role, but may not be as closely connected to the VTO as the company rocks. “Company Rocks are priorities for the company, departmental Rocks are priorities for your department, and individual Rocks are priorities for you or another individual.” (source)
Step 3: Build a Rock Plan
After you’ve smartened your rock, it’s time to build a rock plan. As EOS says, this is where traction occurs. Your rock plan will break the rock into 5-10 micro-steps with individual due dates. This allows you to focus on what’s most important to move that rock forward, one task at a time. It also makes it easier to determine if your rock is on track or off track and prevents cramming your important rock work into the last 2-3 weeks of the quarter.
Most rocks require some type of team interaction, vendor feedback, or resource hunting, so a detailed plan ensures there is adequate time for everyone involved.
Here’s an example of a SMART rock with a Rock Plan:
Identify and Implement Essential Intranet Updates
- Identify essential additions / sections to intranet – 5/8
- Meet with each department senior to discuss intranet needs – 5/10
- Identify items to remove from intranet – 5/12
- Review plan with Executive team – 5/16
- Compile information for new sections of intranet – 5/23
- Schedule revisions with development – 5/25
- Finalize intranet updates – 6/15
- Rollout intranet updates to team – 6/22
As you build your rock plan, here’s a couple questions to ask yourself:
- Will other people need to complete work on this rock? If so, build in enough time between steps for them to complete their work, have it reviewed, and finalized. This could be your internal team or an outside partner.
- Are there any follow ups to this rock? For example, if you are evaluating a resource, is there a follow up rock to deploy it? If you are implementing a new process, is there a follow up rock to roll it out and update policies?
Step 4: Be Accountable
Finally, learn to be accountable for the progress on your rock. Each week in your L10, you’ll have a rock review and will be asked if it’s on track or off track. If it’s off track, it may get dropped down to the issues list to discuss ways to gain traction. Your team is there to hold you accountable and help you achieve your goals, which will be aligned with the company goals.
So, you’re now ready to get started. There is some additional information included in the EOS Traction library, listed here:
- Chapter 8 (pg. 170-176) in Traction
- Chapter 5 (pg. 79-90) in What the Heck is EOS?
Focusing on what’s most important for the business will put you in a position to succeed, so get out there and start putting in the work that will help move the company closer to the 10 year target!