Rocks is a term coined by Stephen Covey. It’s the concept that in our life we have a few really big Rocks, or most important priorities. Things that we want to get done that are bigger and more important than anything else.
We also have pebbles, which are the day-to-day things that need to get done but aren’t quite as important or of as much magnitude as those big Rocks. And then we have sand, which is all the little distractions that get in the way of our day-to-day tasks getting done.
Now imagine you have a bucket. If you put the sand in first. And then the pebbles. And then the big Rocks on top, they’re not going to fit. The sand will take up too much room at the bottom and then the pebbles in the middle. So the big Rocks will overflow at the top.
But if you put the big Rocks in first and then add the pebbles. The pebbles will fill in the holes between the big Rocks. And then when you pour the sand on top, that will fill in the gaps between the Rocks and the pebbles. So that everything fits into the bucket without overflowing. The lesson being that if we focus on those big priorities first, we’ll not only get those done, but we’ll also have time to get everything else done.
How do Rocks apply to your company?
Rocks are the three to seven most important objectives you have to get done over the next 90 days. What do you absolutely have to accomplish in order to have a successful quarter?
Having these priorities clearly laid out will help you maintain your focus. Keeping you away from those shiny objects that we all encounter on a daily basis. The whirlwind of the day-to-day as Four Disciplines of Execution calls it.
In general, humans start to lose focus on projects that take longer than 90 days. For some reason that is our max attention span. So we set your priorities, or Rocks, one 90 day cycle at a time.
Creating Rocks is a skill that you will develop over time.
Rock setting is a skill that takes time to perfect. The goal is to ensure that you are setting SMART Rocks. Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Time Bound. This will ensure that you can actually achieve your 90 day goals. And make progress toward your long term goals.
Specific means that you need to define exactly what you mean by your Rock. What will achieving the Rock entail? Get down into the details on this. The exercise of making these Rocks more specific will help you get a better understanding of the Rock itself. It will force you to lay out exactly what steps you’ll have to take to get it done.
Measurable means that you will know exactly when the Rock is complete. What is the measure of completion for this Rock? What is the end product that you are expecting? This makes sure that you know if you’ve actually completed the Rock or not. You have to set goals that have a defined end line.
Action Oriented means that the Rock is proactive. You can’t set a goal and then just sit back and wait for it to get done. You have to take action to move toward that goal. Make sure that you know exactly what actions you’ll need to take in order to complete each Rock.
Realistic means that it is actually an achievable goal. You have to be honest about what you can get done in the next 90 days. This is the biggest mistake we see our clients make. They set too ambitious of goals, especially in their first quarter. You can’t forget to account for all of the regular day-to-day work you also have to get done over the next quarter. You won’t just magically be able to spend 8 hours a day working on these Rocks. Yes, they are your most important priorities, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect everything else.
Time Bound means that there is a set and agreed upon deadline for completing the Rock. This is naturally built into the PSE Method as you will be meeting every quarter to check in on these Rocks. You will always have a due date set for your Rocks.
You start by setting Company Rocks.
Company Rocks are the most important goals for the entire company. The most impactful objectives. Goals that will move the company forward and help you reach your long term goals.
A Rock rises to the level of a Company Rock based on its order of magnitude. It may be a Rock that only one person will work on, but it will have an outsized impact on the success of the company. These Rocks are the Rocks that you absolutely must complete in order for your company to move forward.
Once the Company Rocks are set, then you will each set Individual Rocks as well. These are the most important Rocks for you and your department. What do you and your team absolutely have to get done this quarter? These Individual Rocks can be in service of the Company Rocks. Or they can be projects in their own right.
There is generally some overlap. You may have one of the Company Rocks assigned to you. So you’ll then add that to your Individual Rocks list.
Remember that less is more.
The purpose of Rocks is to help you focus your efforts, not to overwhelm you. You should only have between three and seven Rocks. It’s okay to have fewer than three, but you should never have more than seven.
Eventually, you will push this down to the entire company so that everyone has at least one Rock to work on every quarter. This will help everyone to know what their priorities are. Rocks help to make sure that everyone has a goal that they are working towards at all times.
Rocks are also about resource allocation. If you only have so many hours in a day or so much money to spend, you must allocate your resources towards accomplishing these most important goals.
An added bonus is that Rocks also help everyone understand how their work makes a difference. It ties them to the bigger picture. And gives them an overarching objective to accomplish. They’ll have a better understanding of why their work matters and how it’s making a difference in the company.
Rocks keep everyone focused on moving the projects forward that will help your company grow and improve. Instead of just stagnating in reacting to the day-to-day.