How to Get Your Team Thinking Three Moves Ahead

Does it feel like your leadership team spends the majority of the time reacting, fighting fires, and responding to urgent issues? Does it feel like a never-ending hamster wheel, without any clear direction, without any light at the end of the tunnel? It doesn't need to be this way. I was reminded about one of the qualities of good (not even great) chess players: they always think three moves ahead. My boys requested a re-watch of the Harry Potter series for movie night, and we went back to the first movie in the series last night, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. While navigating a series of obstacles on their way to the stone, Harry, Ron and Hermione encounter a life-size chessboard. They need to win the game to move on to the next room. Ron thinks ahead and realizes they can win, if he sacrifices himself (he is playing a knight, riding on top of the horse-shaped piece). He demonstrates courage, they make the move, and win the game. One way your leadership team can detach and think a few moves ahead is to implement a meeting rhythm for running the business (or department, or team). This practice is adopted by many organizations from tech startups to publicly traded corporations. You can read in detail about this practice in books like Scaling Up, which is famous for the One Page Strategic Plan, and Traction, famous for EOS, the Entreprenurial Operating System. Whether you do this already and want to tighten it up, or if you've never implemented a rhythm, here are some suggestions from my experience helping several organizations across industries with their rhythm:

  • Set an annual meeting to do strategic thinking and planning (align with your board meetings if you have proper board meetings)

  • Set quarterly checkpoints to set & review progress against 90-day chunks of your strategy

  • Check-in on progress against priorities in your weekly leadership meeting

  • Spend time every quarter on increasing leadership team health and performance

  • Do a talent review every quarter or two, to ensure your top performers are engaged and your bottom performers are improving or exited (A-players want to work with other A-players)

  • Select just one or two strategic topics for decisions at each quarterly checkpoint

  • Incorporate (COVID-safe) fun into your quarterly and annual meetings: dinner and a fun activity

When you implement a rhythm, it's like a metronome for running your business. It lets you detach from the day-to-day reacting, to work ON the business rather than in it. It's thinking three moves ahead. I've helped several organizations implement a rhythm and bring more sanity to their world. Schedule a call if you would like to explore how I might help you do the same