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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published March 5, 2010

Why March is the Most Dangerous Month (and a checklist to fix it) 

As an Irishman (a real one – I was born and lived there for 40 years), I know that March is supposed to be a lucky time – you know, Paddy’s day, 4-leaf clovers, all that stuff.The reality is that March is the most dangerous month for most organizations, divisions, departments and teams: What you do in the next 30 days will most likely determine your success for all of the rest of the year. Look at this chart to see why: Watch what's happening...You have three types of activity going on right now:
  1. – The stuff that’s taken off and is succeeding (green line)
  • – The stuff that’s ‘just ok’ (orange line)
  • – The stuff that’s going nowhere (red line)By about now (end of Q1, the dotted blue vertical line), these three types of activity will have made themselves known to you – you should be able to distinguish between them – whether they are revenue targets, hiring goals, fund-raising activities, customer service initiatives, leadership development or installing a knowledge management system, you know at this point which activities have got traction, and which haven’t. The end of the first quarter is a key leverage point for your resources: See that leveling off of the successful activities (the green line)? That’s the result of you spending the rest of the year trying to improve or resuscitate the other (mediocre and/or dying) activities. Here’s what you need to do:

    1. Maximize successful activities:

    In a typical year, the next three months (or your quarter 2, if you’re not working a calendar year) is spent in semi-denial, watching the data, cajoling everyone to try harder, and hoping things will come better in the second half. As with individual performance appraisals, far too much time is spent analyzing and post-morteming failure, rather than dissecting and repeating success. You need to ruthlessly analyze your currently successful activities and work out how to maximize them, by (a) making them even more successful, and (b) doing more of the same elsewhere.
    Go, Pause, Stop: 33 Questions To Review Q1
    Download this checklistDownload this action checklist containing 33 piercing questions to help you and your team honestly analyze your Quarter 1 performance, and to ensure Predictable Success® success in Quarter 2.Click here to download the checklist.

    2. Cut those activities with no traction:

    Get out of denial and just stop those activities that are yielding no return. You have limited resources (you do have limited resources, don’t you?), and you need to focus those resources on where you will get a return. Yes, I know there are very good reasons for continuing to try to ‘push through’ with these near-dead initiatives (particularly if they were your idea in the first place, or are ‘favored sons’), and you’re probably rehearsing those reasons in your head right now. Your call…

    3. Set clear short-term goals for ‘blah’ activities:

    These are often the hardest activities / initiatives to call – those which haven’t really taken off yet, but there is some return, albeit miserly. With these activities you’re probably getting what I call ‘the velvet deferral’ by now – a regular assurance from the key player(s) that ‘all the signs are there’ that they will break through shortly – whether it’s a salesperson (or team) with few sales but a big list of ‘nearly there’s’, or a project team hopelessly behind schedule but ‘on the verge of a breakthrough’. With these ‘orange line’ activities, you need to set very clear, non-negotiable short-term goals. The key thing is to stop the resource distraction earlier rather than later. Reframe the sales targets, or the project schedule (or whatever the original objective is) for the next 3 months, and make it clear that if they are not attained, you’ll pull the plug and redirect their resources elsewhere.
    Your primary goal must be to move into Quarter 2 with a clear focus on success, rather than being distracted and drained by failure and mediocrity. As we(e) leprechauns say, Good luck!


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