"Just because a company is growing fast and its people are passionate does not mean that those people will magically understand what they are supposed to do to keep the company on course."
It’s a fast-paced world. But, if you grow too fast, without strategy and without the ability to execute successfully you’ll disappoint customers, frustrate employees and well, you know what happens to those companies.
Rhythm is a book about growth, strategic growth. I’d actually say this is a book about successfully implemented strategies. So if you’re one of the many companies that has strategically chosen to not grow any larger this book will be just as useful to your success as well.
Patrick Thean introduces us to the term “Rhythm”, which he describes as a habit. He tells us that the right Rhythms (habits) give us and our companies focus, alignment and accountability. He uses the word Rhythm instead of process because habits are done all the time – we get into a rhythm. The daily Rhythms we must develop and implement to grow successfully are laid out in step by step, actionable detail:
- Think Rhythm – Strategic thinking to create focus for the future of the business.
- Plan Rhythm – Execution planning to let all teams/individuals know what they are supposed to do.
- Do Rhythm – Doing the work to keep the plan on track (executing the plan, communicating, negotiating, adjusting, measuring).
The Big Idea
All growth companies hit ceilings of complexity
"The best thing about having Think, Plan and Do Rhythms is that they make you continuously ready to deal with ceilings of complexity when you meet them."
Growth makes complexity and complexity makes it difficult to focus on priorities that create growth. Thean says growth companies tend to hit ceilings of complexity when they reach a milestone – a certain size, achieving a huge goal, starting a new product line. Sadly, for prediction of or avoidance of the complexity that stops our growth in its tracks, there isn’t one ceiling level for all. Complexities affect each company differently. For our company it wasn’t a traditional milestone like revenue or number of employees. It was truly the volume of ideas. I said, “I love coming up with the ideas and gathering them from others, then having someone else implement so I was free to generate ideas.” I thought this was an empowering behavior but instead, because of no Think Rhythm, we didn’t have ideas that fit strategy or at least didn’t have a way to tell if it did or not. So they just went in a pile of cool ideas.
I didn’t originally think this was bad until at year fifteen it appeared as though no ideas were getting implemented. Thean would say that we needed to “stop overeating from the buffet of opportunities”; that all of those opportunities were obscuring what we really needed to focus on. How can you tell if you have too many ideas in the hopper in addition to the really bad indicator – no ideas getting implemented? Look at your project graveyard. Are there more projects there than have been implemented successfully? I am committing this year to just say no then to ideas that don’t advance our strategy and only say yes to Winning Moves ideas (more on that below in insight #1).
Developing a habit to think
"Spend time refining and communicating the core strategy of your business so that your teams can make the right execution decisions with purpose."
What I find most valuable about this book is that Thean doesn’t just tell us to develop a habit/ Rhythm but he gives us the how to. In this section I found two things I’d done my whole professional life until I stopped ten years ago – and I promise you I’m going back to them now:
- Meet weekly to work on the foundation of your company (each dept, team, or even the whole company).
- Develop Winning Moves which are two or three very specific things/ideas you’ll do to advance growth. Give them a name so you can communicate about them daily, know who has the knowledge and skill on each move, and develop revenue projections and assumptions that they’re based on. Finally, test those assumptions constantly and adjust until you see you’re ready for a full roll out of the move/idea or decide if it’s an idea whose time hasn’t come yet and then give it a future date or drop it.
It’s easy to choose the Winning Moves if your mission, vision and core strategy is refined and communicated (for me written on the wall). Every idea that comes your way, from the smallest that’s more like a To Do to a huge commitment – ask yourself, “how does this thing help us meet our mission, vision, strategy?” If it doesn’t meet it then don’t do it — regardless of how much you or a shareholder or a customer want to.
Slow down to plan out execution
"…the environment, process and situation usually cause the poor outcome, not the people themselves."
Many confuse what Thean is talking about with strategic planning and that’s why he’s broken it into two actions/Rhythms – Strategic Thinking and Execution Planning. The Think Rhythm is about choosing the right Winning Moves to drive revenue growth and focus the company. The Plan Rhythm is about preparation to align your teams and get them focused on the right things week by week. He says if you don’t have an ongoing method to prepare for a great week/quarter/year, how can you expect to have one?
Everyone I’ve ever talked to or read about who has actually slowed down to plan says they got their time back in spades. I’ve found that when I don’t plan I spend at least double the time floundering around and cleaning up mistakes than if I’d just taken the time to plan before I executed! The trick is getting yourself to do it the first time so you can see that it does indeed save time. Just humor me and Patrick Thean and try it once – really try it. Plan thoroughly and track the time it takes to create and implement this plan and you will see the time savings. Or at least you’ll see that Ready-Aim-Fire takes the same amount of time as Fire-Ready-Aim (and without the loss of customers, credibility and money).
The how to’s are right to the point and easy to implement. His writing style makes you want to read his methods and his formatting – bright green, red, yellow, bullet points, lots of focusing quotes and planning forms – make it so easy to navigate. Even the heavy gloss paper add to my experience as it makes the book feel substantial, assuring me that I’ll get something from using its ideas.
You will get great traction if you commit to using Thean’s Think, Plan, Do Rhythms!