Building a Smarter Bag of Rocks

S.M.A.R.T Goals

Remember what it was like to eat at a buffet? In those heady pre-COVID days we could gorge on platefuls of shrimp, pasta, and rolls, then go back for two or three desserts. All without regrets . . . right?

Most of us who aren’t coming straight from a serious athletic event can’t really eat like that. Going into the buffet, most people who aren’t football players probably tell themselves they’re going to stop short of stuffing themselves. That doesn’t stop a lot of people from eating too much.

Setting goals for a business is just like a buffet. When a talented team gets together to talk about plans for the future, great ideas can come from every direction: Sales sees exciting opportunities in a new market! The visionary CEO wants to launch a dozen new service offerings! The CFO is eager to implement the revolutionary financial models in the book she’s reading!

After a meeting like that, everyone risks leaving the room with their plates stacked to the ceiling.

Tighten those belts!

In this analogy, the Entrepreneurial Operating System® is your company’s diet plan.

Just as the EOS Visionary™ needs to work at keeping mental clutter under control, so the entire team needs a clear slate of goals to succeed. Businesses running EOS® establish Rocks each quarter to keep a healthy balance on their plates.

Setting great Rocks is an art form. When your business is just starting out with EOS, your Implementer will help you establish a first set of Rocks that sounds like it will meet each of the components of S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. The EOS blog has a nice summary of how S.M.A.R.T. helps companies set great Rocks.

Each Rock needs to be S.M.A.R.T. to be successful. But measuring whether a Rock is S.M.A.R.T. on its own can miss an important piece of the puzzle: how do all those Rocks stack up together?

I work with some small businesses that are using EOS to get them to the next tier of growth. In the startup context, the problem of mission creep can be especially acute. The Visionary is often chomping at the bit to do all the things the competition is already doing. The rest of the (small) team often shares that excitement. With so few people, trying to do it all is a recipe for setbacks, frustration, and burnout.

How the Rock buffet can get out of hand

A startup I work with burst out of the gates running at full speed with EOS. They eagerly adopted the systems’ ideas, including setting a few Rocks for each member of the leadership team to execute in their first quarter with EOS. After achieving most of their goals in the first quarter, they set some new ones at their first quarterly meeting. It all seemed to be going well.

Then a common problem began to creep in. With a quarter of success behind them, the team started thinking of Rocks the way bookworms think of books: the more the merrier. They started adding Rocks to their plates during Level 10 Meetings™. A couple of them even added Rocks to their plates on their own.

The result was predictable: at the next quarterly meeting, they had a bag of Rocks that weren’t done or, worse, were spreading resources too thinly to be effective.

When I sorted out what had happened, I let ‘em have it. They’d let themselves load up at the buffet without thinking about how all that food would make them feel. Not only had they added Rocks without thinking them through completely, they’d let them derail the goals set at their last quarterly meeting.

Tips for building a better collection of Rocks

Avoiding this problem is a matter of discipline. Here are some suggestions for avoiding the Buffet Trap:

  • Add the SMART analysis to your whole bag of Rocks. Instead of looking at each Rock in isolation, think about how all of them stack up.
  • Only think about adding new Rocks if your old ones are done. If someone has finished their quarterly Rocks and they really have the bandwidth to take on something new, then adding a new Rock might be a good idea.
  • Add Rocks as a team. Individual Rocks are intended to fit into the EOS framework of accountability, which means they still need to be part of the whole team’s plan.
  • Ask your Implementer! Helping companies figure out S.M.A.R.T. Rocks is one of important jobs of an EOS Implementer®. If your business is overwhelming itself with Rocks, chances are you need to be running them by your Implementer to make sure they’re really S.M.A.R.T.

I can help your team set the right goals

Most businesses just need an extra dose of perspective to start setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. My work as a Professional EOS Implementer® draws on my long experience leading teams and putting people around me in a position to succeed. How can I help your business grow? Send me an email or give me a call at (818) 649-1103 to start setting better Rocks today!