The Importance of Disciplined Execution

Sales & Growth
Vision & Strategy


I was recently at a client’s quarterly planning session, leading them through their review of the last quarter. It was rather shocking.

They had lots of wins, several misses and some great learnings. But when we looked at their previous quarter’s plan, things went off the rails.

29%. That was their goal achievement rate for the quarter.

I felt gutted for the team. Instead of building momentum, they came to a crashing stop. Financial goals? All missed. Rocks? Definitely not crushed.

All the planning in the world is useless without disciplined execution.

Jim Collins makes it very clear. Greatness is a matter of choice and discipline. In BE 2.0, he talks about the idea of the 20-Mile March. Every day, you get up and you march 20 miles. In the sun, the rain, the snow. You. March. 20. Miles. Everyday.

That’s the kind of discipline you need around execution.

There’s nothing magical about rocks – they’re simply quarterly projects. They just happen to be the most important projects to drive the business forward.

Of course, there’s always so much to do and never enough resources. I understand them. That why you need 20-mile-march discipline to consistently crush your rocks.

Here’s three key strategies to keep in mind when planning your quarterly rocks:

Pick fewer (and the right) rocks

One of the biggest mistakes I run into with leadership teams is trying to do too much.

In baseball, would you rather get 3 players on base (and not to home) or one home run? A home run, of course.

When you have too many priorities (or the wrong priorities), you’re contributing to the feeling of overwhelm that so many leaders face and you won’t get them all done.

The answer: Focus on fewer (and the right) priorities.

Each person in the team should have a small, realistic number of rocks that they can knock out of the park.

Rocks must be SMART

Too often, rocks are incredibly vague. When that’s the case, nobody knows exactly what’s going to be done.

Like any project, rocks need to be SMART. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – What you’re going to do is clear.
  • Measurable – What does done look like?
  • Attainable – It can actually be achieved.
  • Realistic – Can you actually get it done (with everything else on your plate)?
  • Time-bound – It has a due date. In the case of quarterly rocks, it’s 90 days or less.

Ensuring rocks are SMART alone will improve your success rate, but it’s not enough.

Create your weekly plans and check-in regularly

For each rock, there should be a week-by-week plan. Every week, have a SMART milestone. We call it the 13-week plan.

Why weekly?

It gives you a very simple way for your team to check-in on their rocks at your team meeting. Is this weeks’ milestone complete?

Tip: Use a simple stoplight system on your check-ins:

  • Green – On track.
  • Yellow – No, but recoverable and here’s how we’re doing it.
  • Red – No, we need help.

This way the status of each rock is clear and corrections can be made quickly.

Block time for your rocks

Parkinson’s Law—the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

In this case, the amount of busy work will always fill all your time and you won’t get to your rocks unless you specifically do something about it.

Block time out to focus on your rocks. I recommend you start with 2-hour blocks throughout the week. No email, no phones, no distractions. Get that rock crushed.

Remember these are the most important priorities. They need your focus.

With these strategies in place, I know the client will do much better on their rocks next quarter. They’ll have a realistic number of rocks, clear plans, accountability in their weekly meetings and time set aside to actually get the work done.

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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