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The 90-day Performance Improvement Cycle
By Stacey Barr
Jan 13, 2015

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Annual planning has a few drawbacks that result in unachieved targets, wasted time, and exhaustion in the end. We set the goals and targets for the end of the year, but that feels so far away that we often delay our start, fail to respond as the world around us changes, and consequently lose momentum and interest.

In contrast to the annual cycle, the 90-day performance improvement cycle is simply about focusing on and elevating just one performance priority over a 3-month period.

You’ll continue to measure and monitor other areas of performance too, that you chose in your strategic planning, but you’ll only take action on, and aim to produce a measurable improvement in, the 90-day focus you’ve chosen.

Imagine you have seven strategic goals (or five or twelve; whatever) that you can group under four themes. Each theme could be assigned to a 90-day block and you’d work on designing, implementing and delivering on the initiatives you chose to reach the strategic goals within that 90 day’s theme.

One of my small business clients calls their themes ‘rocks’, and each 90-day block sees the whole company focused on just one rock.

For long-term initiatives, you could instead break them down into 90-day chunks, and focus on designing, implementing and delivering on just one chunk at a time.

And it might be that different teams are working on different – but ideally synchronised – initiatives as their 90-day focus. There isn’t just one way to adopt the 90-day performance improvement cycle.

The idea is that when you shorten the time frame and sharpen the focus, you will achieve more. A year is such a long time. It means we can too easily delay making any progress on our performance targets because of a false belief we have plenty of time and don’t need to dive in immediately. It means we can feel locked into our plan, even when the world around us is shaping up much differently to the assumptions we based that plan on. It means we can run out of steam when we haven’t seen results worth celebrating on a regular basis.
But 90 days is a much more tangible timeframe than a year; we can feel its length almost viscerally and can see its end in our mind’s timeline.

It matters far less that we reach our targets each 90 days than we make steady and learned progress. It’s through action that the world changes, not through thinking and planning. We need to think and plan, but often we do too much of it, and not enough acting and learning and achieving.

Stacey Barr

Stacey Barr is a specialist in organisational performance measurement and creator of PuMP, the refreshingly practical, step-by-step performance measurement methodology designed to overcome people’s biggest struggles with KPIs and measures. Learn about the bad habits that cause these struggles, and how to stop them, by taking Stacey’s free online course “The 10 Secrets to KPI Success” at

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