How to Prioritize Like a Master Sculptor

March 11, 2020

by Jonathan Smith

on March 9, 2020

EOS, Goals, Planning, Strategic Planning, Team

The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

― Confucius

I was recently in the throes of an Annual Planning session with Dotcom Distribution, an awesome company that is doing amazing things in the world of e-commerce fulfillment and third-party logistics using EOS® as its business operating system.

The leadership team rattled off several dozen outcomes they wanted to achieve. However, they were struggling to determine how to allocate them to the right compartments. Did they belong in their 10-Year Target™, 3-Year Picture™, 1-Year Plan, or quarterly Rocks?

Mary J. Haggerty, their CEO, and Visionary crystallized their question perfectly:

“How do we decide which goal should be in our 3-Year Picture versus our 1-Year Plan? And why does EOS create so many gradations in our goal-setting? What is the purpose?”

I told Maria and the team that the answer can be understood by likening the map for the vision and traction they were creating together to the handiwork of a master sculptor.

Work Like a Master Sculptor

Selecting the Stone: The first thing a sculptor must do is decide what kind of stone he or she will use. Will it be alabaster, marble, or soapstone? Will it be the size of a bread-box or weigh eight tons? Will it be a person, animal, or vase? This is like choosing a 10-Year Target. To get your bearings, you first have to identify your north star. If you don’t, you could be going the wrong way.

Roughing Out: The next stage is called “roughing out.” This means creating a silhouette by cutting away the chunks of stone that do not belong. If the subject of the sculpture is a person, at this point, you can begin to make out the head, torso, arms, and legs. This is akin to creating a 3-Year Picture. An image of what you want your organization to look like begins to take shape. As you begin to get a clear picture of how things will be on the road to success, you and your people will begin to feel energized and excited.

Secondary Shaping: After roughing out the general shape, the sculptor begins carving out the fine features – the eyes, ears, nose, chin, and fingers. In much the same way, an organization’s 1-Year Plan is where the rubber really begins to hit the road. You identify the three to seven specific goals you must achieve just one short year from now to be on track for your 3-Year Picture and 10-Year Target.

Smooth Finish: Finally, the sculptor smooths and applies the final details to his or her creation. At this point, the image that previously existed only in the sculptor’s imagination is now clear as day. This stage may be likened to establishing quarterly Rocks. You and everyone in our organization know exactly what to focus on like a laser over the next 90 days to achieve your vision.

What Success Looks Like

If the sculptor got impatient and began carving the subject’s ears before deciding on the right size, shape, and type of stone, he or she would end up with lots of regrets. In the same way, if you want success, it is critical to first decide on your general direction and then refine that vision more and more until you know exactly what you should do right now to get everything you hoped for from your business.

This analogy really hit home with this particular leadership team, so I wanted to share it with others to make the Vision-setting process more accessible to everyone.

You and your team’s ability to compartmentalize your vision is critical to achieving success. Use the EOS Process® to get clear on where you want to go, how you want to get there, and what you should focus on right now. You’ll get to the point where everyone on your team is 100% on the same page with your vision and executing on it with discipline and accountability. You’ll find yourself working together with people you genuinely enjoy and advancing as a healthy, functional, cohesive team.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

― Michelangelo

NEXT STEPS: