It’s the last game of the World Series and the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Your team is down by one. Assume you’ve never played a game of baseball. No Little League, no high school or collegiate play. It’s your turn at bat. What are the odds you will drive in the winning run?
The scenario above is ridiculous. Yet, similar scenarios play out each day on farms and businesses across the USA and Canada. As you are well aware, there is always plenty to do on a farm and most days involve rushing from one fire to another. There isn’t much time to work on your business (strategy and planning) because you are so focused on working in your business (operations). Now your farm is faced with some major decisions (estate planning, transition planning, major expansions or belt-tightening). These scenarios are often the World Series on your farm. Success is wonderful and failure has dire consequences.
Historically, the majority of farms and businesses do not make it into next generation or conflict erupts when farms are faced with a major strategic decision. A common thread between most of these farms is lack of planning and execution around small strategic goals. However, if you daily practice the skills of planning, communication, and execution, the odds greatly increase that you will hit a grand slam with a major decision on the line.
When facilitating a transition plan or strategic plan the first thing I inquire about is the type and frequency of meetings and execution of daily operations. Often these are sporadic meetings that run off topic, include the wrong people, and don’t produce enough results. Before tackling strategic planning, estate planning, or transition planning with a farm we move them towards smaller successes before they hit major league decision making. Otherwise, you will be at bat with not enough skill to pull it off.
The Daily Huddle – It is deceptively simple, quick and produces results when the right people are involved.
- It needs to occur at the same time (on time) each day without fail. The meeting lasts no more than 15 minutes.
- Required people must be in the meeting unless there is a major life event (i.e. their own death).
- No more than five people in the meeting.
- The meeting is either on a group phone call or in person. If in person, no one sits but remains standing.
Every meeting has a meeting manager to manage the flow and ask the following three questions.
- What are the most important things we need to accomplish this day as a farm?
- How are we going to accomplish these must do priorities?
- Who is accountable for each priority?
It crucial to keep the daily huddle on topic and focused on results. The huddle should only discuss priorities and the execution of priorities. Some topics may be important but should be discussed at a different time and place. Some examples:
- The weather unless it impacts the daily priorities.
- Market price trends
- Rent agreements
- Employee challenges
- Equipment & input purchases
- Any planning other than the priorities for next 24 hours.
90-Day Goal Meeting – Once a rhythm of daily huddle meetings is the new normal, it will be much easier to set and achieve 90-day goals tied to long-term plans. Many of the topics that don’t make the stringent criteria for the daily huddle are included in this meeting.
Best practices include:
- Same time (starting on time) and same place every 90 days.
- The meeting lasts no more than two hours.
- Attendance by senior management team required.
- Written agenda.
- Answer the question: “What are the most critical things (no more than 7) do we need to do in the next 90 days?”
- How are we going to accomplish these 90-day priorities?
- Who is accountable for each priority?
- Discussion followed by decisions occur. Don’t get in a habit of not making decisions.
- Review of past 90-day goals, identifying what did and didn’t work.
- Once a week at the daily huddle have everyone give an update on how they are achieving their part of the 90 Day Goals.
Entrepreneurs and farmers typically dislike meetings. But short, efficient, and consistent meetings about important topics create a rhythm of decision making and execution. These experiences and meeting rhythm directly carry over to tackling the major strategic decisions facing each farm. If a farm can execute on their daily huddle priorities and 90-day goals at least 80% of the time, they have an excellent opportunity to hit a grand slam in the big league game of a vision, strategic planning, and transition planning.
You only get one at-bat on many of these topics. Prepare in Little League then hit the ball out of the park when the game is on the line.