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Are you Succeeding? How do you know?

“First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.” – Aristotle

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

1. Introduction

Remember January 1, 2016? Just like yesterday, right? Well, in December 2015 I wrote a blog post about “Get Ready to Succeed in 2016”. (Here it is – Now it’s April, I thought it might be a good idea to check in and see how the year is unfolding.

I suggested that we try a three-step approach:

  1. Know the score by creating and using a dashboard.
  2. Take stock with your team.
  3. Enroll others in the journey by making the making really clear what success will and why it’s important.

I also suggested the use of 90-day planning as a mechanism to hold the score and the actions that you intended to take between January and April.

In this blog, I suggest some simple questions that help focus on what you’ve accomplished in the last 90 days, some thoughts on your Improvement Journey and a challenge for the next 90 days.

Ready? Let’s go…

2. The Last 90-days

The quotations at the beginning of this post sum up how I feel about my last 90 days. On the one hand, I had all the goals identified and the resources allocated. I felt good about what lay ahead of us:

  • Complete an important client assignment.
  • Produce a marketing video with the help of the Draw Shop:
  • Secure three new pieces of work.
  • Commit to improving the efficiency of how we manage our consulting practice.

Aristotle would have been impressed, I’m sure.

Well, like most things in life, I accomplished part of what I set out to do, did some things I didn’t plan, and undershot on some activities. This is where Michael Jordan’s words ring true – it’s only by trying, over and over again that I can make progress against my plans.

Here are some key questions to think about as you look back over the last three months. I suggest you write down the question and your answers:

  1. What did I plan to do? What worked well? What wasn’t so great? Why?
  2. What did I plan to learn? How did I do? Why?
  3. How did my team do in working together? What worked well? What wasn’t so great? Why?
  4. How did my team do against their objectives? What could we do better?

3. The Improvement Journey

If you’re like me, you probably have noticed a couple of items that need improvement, which raises the idea of the improvement journey. The field of Continuous Improvement revolves around this notion and it fits well in our 90-day check-in process.

The central question of the Improvement Journey: What do I need to improve and how do I do so?

Your 90-day planning debrief should remind you about what you are working on – as you describe your priorities for the next 90 days, plan to use the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDAC) cycle. This is also sometimes known as the Plan, Implement, Evaluate, Improve cycle and derives from the work of Dr. Edward Deming (


Are you and your team ready to move to the next phase of your work? What have you learned so far? What should you do next? What skills and knowledge will you and the team need?


Implement some early next steps and be open to failing before committing to full implementation. Think of this as a pilot, keep it contained and be prepared to learn from what you have tested.


Reflect together on your pilot efforts. Identify where you can improve and what additional resources, skills and support you will need to be successful over the the next 90 days.


Integrate the learning from your pilot into your 90 day plans and get going.

4. The Next 90-days

Build a plan for the next 90 days that includes a period for the PDCA ‘pilot’. Keep it short and to the point and use it as a communication and engagement tool with your team.

Individual plan

  • What is the short list (less than five) of items you personally plan to work on in the next three months?
  • What measures will you use to determine if you are successful?

Team plan – in dialogue with your team answer these questions:

  • What is the short list (less than five) of items should your team work on in the next three months?
  • What measures will the team use to determine if it is successful?
  • Who will carry out the tasks?
  • How will you all track progress?


Using the discipline of 90-day planning and milestone reporting, you can build up momentum both for yourself and for the team. Like any habit, the more you do it, the more it will become reinforced and the more you can be like both Aristotle and Michael Jordan.


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