10 Healthy “Rockefeller Habits” Every Team Should Implement

 

The Rockefeller Habits, inspired by John D. Rockefeller’s management principles, provide a practical framework for scaling up businesses. These habits focus on alignment, accountability, and execution, ensuring that every part of the organisation is synchronised and moving toward the same strategic objectives. By embedding these practices into the company’s daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly rhythms, leaders can create a culture of continuous improvement and sustained growth.

Let’s review the ten Rockefeller Habits, exploring how each contributes to building a successful business. From fostering a healthy executive team to establishing clear KPIs for every employee, these habits cover all aspects of organisational management. We’ll provide practical insights and actionable steps to help you implement these habits in your company, transforming it into a well-organised machine capable of achieving its goals.

Understanding and applying the Rockefeller Habits can significantly improve your business’s performance. Let’s dive into this practical checklist designed to bring discipline, clarity, and success to your organisation.

Download The Rockefeller Habits Checklist Here

 

Rockefeller Habit 1 – Cultivating a Healthy Team

Implementing this first Rockefeller Habit is essential because a healthy, aligned executive team that can engage in productive debates without fostering conflict is foundational to the success of any business initiative.

To achieve this, it’s advisable to follow Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team framework. This involves addressing the key dysfunctions: Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results. Your leadership team can improve its collaborative abilities by focusing on these areas. Revisiting this exercise annually can help maintain team health.

Regular weekly sessions focused on strategy and accountability, coupled with ongoing training, will help build an effective and aligned executive team. These shared learning experiences enhance trust, communication, commitment, accountability, and results.

Trust is the cornerstone of any effective team. Building trust comes from shared understanding and a unified commitment to achieving results. To foster this, you can incorporate activities that allow team members to get to know each other better. Start your meetings with personal and professional updates, occasionally share meals, and spend social time together during strategic retreats and monthly meetings. This team-building approach will yield benefits in terms of results, happiness, and retention.

Rockefeller Habit #1 Key Takeaways: 

1. Mutual Understanding: Team members are well-versed in each other’s unique traits, priorities, and working styles.

2. Frequent Meetings: Regular strategic meetings, ideally weekly, are necessary for continuous improvement and renewal.

3. Continuous Learning: Monthly participation in executive education is recommended to keep the team informed and engaged.

4. Constructive Environment: Creating a fun, engaging atmosphere where team members can debate constructively and feel comfortable voicing their opinions is crucial.

 

Rockefeller Habit 2 – Aligning the Team on the Top Priority

Team alignment is achieved through the One Page Strategic Plan, which is created annually and updated quarterly. Focusing on the 1 Priority connects your long-term BHAG® (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras) with the immediate Critical Number necessary to move towards that goal in the upcoming quarter.

Identifying the Critical Number is essential. Leaders often set ultimate goals or KPIs for the quarter without a clear action plan, like setting a weight loss goal without specifying the necessary steps. While having a final goal is beneficial for achieving your BHAG®, it’s more effective to pinpoint the critical lead measure that will drive other priorities.

Think of your priorities as dominoes, where the lead domino—your Critical Number—is the initiative that enables you to achieve everything else. This number is often tied to a bottleneck or constraint in your business, the X-Factor, that must be addressed first.

This approach fosters a new level of strategic thinking, helping you stay ahead of competitors. For instance, one Scaling Up client identified generating 150 referrals per quarter as their Critical Number to meet their growth and revenue targets. Another client found their bottleneck was preparing IT consultants for the field. They determined that training new computer science graduates into field-ready consultants within six months would significantly improve their business. This six-month training goal became their Critical Number, driving three to five key priorities that enabled growth in revenue and profit.

Rockefeller Habit #2 Key Takeaways:

1. Identify the Critical Number: Determine the key metric moving the company forward this quarter.

2. Set Priorities: Establish and rank 3-5 key priorities (Rocks) that support the Critical Number.

3. Announce Themes and Rewards: Communicate a Quarterly Theme and associated rewards to bring the Critical Number to life for all employees.

4. Track Progress: Display the Quarterly Theme and Critical Number throughout the company, ensuring everyone knows the weekly progress.

 

Rockefeller Habit 3 – Establishing Meeting Rhythms

Meeting rhythms are crucial for the Rockefeller Habits, enabling team members to sync with the organisation’s pulse and operate efficiently. An organised schedule of annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily meetings enhances execution, alignment, and updates to the One Page Strategic Plan. This regularity fosters teamwork and culture, allowing for quicker problem-solving and time savings.

Effective communication is a primary challenge for any organisation. Well-structured meetings are essential for maintaining focus, alignment, and resolving issues. A Certified Scaling Up Coach can be beneficial in facilitating these meetings.

Pre-scheduling meetings ensures they occur regularly and don’t conflict with vacations or travel. By setting these meetings as placeholders on calendars, team members are held accountable and prepared to discuss their progress.

Here is a specific meeting rhythm designed to support cascading communication around priorities and metrics-driven strategy:

Daily Huddle

A brief 5-15 minute stand-up meeting each morning to align daily priorities. The agenda covers tactical issues and updates, identifying any obstacles hindering execution or strategic direction. This huddle typically saves time on email updates and interruptions, with emerging issues setting the agenda for the weekly meeting.

Weekly Meeting

A 60-90 minute session to review progress on quarterly priorities and address one or two main issues using the collective expertise of the team. The meeting also reviews market intelligence from customers, employees, and competitors, shaping the monthly meeting agenda.

Monthly Management Meeting

A half- to full-day meeting where senior, middle, and frontline managers report on their quarterly priorities. This meeting includes executive education to promote growth and cohesiveness and addresses one or two major issues. It also serves to cascade strategic priorities to middle management and frontline staff.

Quarterly and Annual Planning Meetings

A one-to-three-day offsite meeting where leaders update the Scaling Up One Page Strategic Plan and Growth Tools, setting the next quarterly or annual theme. They work on the Four Decisions of People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. The leadership team updates all employees on the plan each quarter in a 45-minute meeting.

Rockefeller Habit #3 Key Takeaways:

1. Daily Huddle: Every employee participates in a daily 15-minute huddle.

2. Weekly Meetings: Each team holds a weekly meeting.

3. Monthly Executive Meetings: Executives and middle managers spend a day each month on learning, resolving significant issues, and transferring knowledge.

4. Quarterly and Annual Offsite Meetings: Executives and middle managers meet offsite to address Strategy, Execution, People, and Cash.

 

Rockefeller Habit 4 – Functional and Process Accountability

“If more than one person is accountable, then no one is accountable, and that’s when things fall through the cracks.” — Verne Harnish

The Face of the Company

The Functional Accountability Chart (FACe) is a tool listing essential company functions, the person accountable for each, and the KPIs each function must meet. This chart helps identify gaps in people and performance within the leadership team. Each function must have one, and only one, person accountable. Multiple names in a box or empty boxes indicate a lack of true accountability. Once the chart is complete, evaluate if each person listed is the right fit for their role and if they can perform effectively.

Financial Accountability

To improve financial performance, assign a person to each line item on the Income Statement/P&L, Balance Sheet, and Statement of Cash Flows. Review these assignments monthly to ensure accountability. This approach helps achieve revenue targets and control key expenses such as COGS, overtime labor, and travel. Similarly, focusing on the Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows improves critical areas like accounts receivable and inventory.

The Pace of the Company

The company’s pace is determined by the speed of its processes. The Process Accountability Chart (PACe) lists those responsible for the 4-9 critical processes that drive the business, ensuring each process runs smoothly and is measured effectively. Example processes include:

– Developing and launching new products

– Generating leads

– Closing sales

– Scheduling

– Manufacturing

– Delivery

– Attracting, hiring, and onboarding new employees

– Training

– Procurement

– Billing and collecting payments

These processes often span multiple organisational functions and require coordination, which becomes more complex as the business grows.

Key Differentiating Activities

The final component of this Rockefeller Habit aligns with the Key Thrusts/Capabilities on the One Page Strategic Plan. These are the strategic initiatives needed to differentiate the business and achieve 3-5 year goals. Assign an internal expert or an advisory board member to each thrust/capability to ensure progress on these initiatives.

Rockefeller Habit #4 Key Takeaways

1. Functional Accountability: Complete the Functional Accountability Chart (FACe) with the right people in the right roles.

2. Financial Accountability: Assign a person to each line item in the financial statements.

3. Process Accountability: Ensure each of the 4-9 key processes on the Process Accountability Chart (PACe) has a dedicated person responsible.

4. Advisory Expertise: Assign an expert from the Advisory Board to each 3-5 year Key Thrust/Capability if internal expertise is lacking.

 

Rockefeller Habit 5 – Gathering Employee Feedback

Frontline employees play a crucial role in a company’s success, as they interact directly with customers and the production process. Their feedback is valuable, providing insights that can enhance the bottom line. Listening to frontline employees through a structured feedback routine can boost job satisfaction and retention.

Executives should engage in Start/Stop/Keep conversations weekly, dedicating 10-45 minutes to focused discussions with employees or groups. These conversations are more effective than casual chats in uncovering issues and opportunities. Key questions to ask include:

– What should we start doing?

– What should we stop doing?

– What should we keep doing?

Pay attention to “stop doing” suggestions, as they highlight what may be demotivating employees. Developing the ability to gather insightful feedback is a valuable leadership skill that enhances decision-making and fosters a loyal, engaged workforce. Ensure these conversations are directed and strategic to avoid unproductive gripe sessions. Focus on questions that reveal ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, or improve customer experience.

Ignoring employee suggestions can harm morale. It is vital to act on feedback or, at the very least, explain why an idea cannot be implemented. Responsiveness and follow-through are key to maintaining employee trust and engagement.

Rockefeller Habits #5 Key Takeaways

1. Start/Stop/Keep Conversations: Each executive and middle manager has a weekly Start/Stop/Keep conversation with at least one employee.

2. Weekly Executive Insights: Share insights from these conversations at the weekly executive team meeting.

3. Consistent Feedback Collection: Gather employee input about obstacles and opportunities on a weekly basis.

4. Closing the Loop: A mid-management team ensures all feedback is addressed and acted upon.

 

Rockefeller Habit 6 – Gathering Customer Feedback

Let’s introduce the 4Q Conversations concept. To provide excellent customer service and gain a competitive edge, executives and middle managers should have a weekly 4 Questions (4Q) conversation with at least one end-user customer. These questions should be asked directly, either face-to-face or by phone, not in a survey format, to maintain the personal touch.

The 4Q Questions:

1. How are you doing?

2. What’s going on in your industry/region/neighborhood?

3. What do you hear about our competitors?

4. How are we doing?

These straightforward questions provide actionable insights. Start by asking about the customer’s overall situation to show you care about them as individuals, not just customers. Their responses will reveal their priorities and how your products and services can support their goals.

The second question explores industry and regional developments, which can help you identify trends and tailor your offerings. The third question about competitors can dispel myths from the sales team and provide valuable insights into service and delivery. Lastly, asking how your company is doing gives you unfiltered feedback on your performance.

Fostering these direct conversations builds valuable relationships and provides critical insights that enhance decision-making and customer engagement.

Discuss at the Weekly Meeting

A key part of the weekly meeting is sharing insights from customer conversations. Avoid lengthy written reports; instead, capture insights in meeting notes. Look for patterns in your team’s findings to validate the insights.

Fred Reichheld, founder of the loyalty practice at Bain & Co., found that high-growth companies spend about 20% of leadership meeting time discussing customer feedback. These firms grow revenue more than twice as fast as their competitors, who spend little time on customer feedback.

Involve All Employees

The fastest-growing companies, like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, excel at gathering and acting on customer feedback. They use this input to drive product development and marketing. Similarly, your organisation should become a customer and market intelligence hub.

Involve everyone, especially the sales team, in collecting, sharing, and acting on customer feedback. 

Closing the Loop on Ideas

It’s crucial to close the loop on customer feedback. Assign a mid-management team to ensure ideas are implemented and track progress in your regular meetings. Not every idea will be feasible, but always thank customers for their input and keep the conversation open. They will appreciate being heard, and sometimes it’s a matter of timing for implementation.

Regularly collecting and acting on customer feedback will drive business growth and foster strong customer relationships.

Rockefeller Habit #6 Key Takeaways

1. 4Q Conversations: Executives and middle managers have a 4Q conversation with at least one end user weekly. 

2. Weekly Executive Insights: Share insights from customer conversations at the weekly executive team meeting.

3. Consistent Feedback Collection: All employees are involved in gathering customer feedback regularly.

4. Closing the Loop: A mid-management team ensures all customer feedback is addressed and acted upon.

 

Rockefeller Habit 7 – Core Values and Purpose Are Alive in the Organisation

Developing Core Values That Make a Difference

Core Values are the fundamental principles that define what is important to the company. They shape the culture and guide behaviour and decision-making. It’s important to avoid generic terms like “integrity” or “excellence” without further explanation. Instead, create detailed Core Value statements that describe the desired behaviours and culture.

Core Values should reflect the unique identity of the organisation. Allow these values to evolve over six months to a year before finalising them to ensure they resonate with the team.

 The Core Purpose

Core Purpose answers the question, “Why do we do what we do?” It captures the organisation’s mission and what it aims to achieve. Unlike Core Values, Core Purpose is often best expressed in a single word or idea, such as:

– 3M: Innovation

– Disney: Happiness

– Wal-Mart: Robin Hood (Giving ordinary people access to goods)

– Starbucks: A Third Place to Relax

To develop your Core Purpose, use the Five Whys technique to explore the deeper reasons behind your business activities. This purpose should go beyond making money and serve as the guiding star for the organisation.

Bringing Core Values and Purpose Alive

Many companies create Core Values and Purpose statements but fail to integrate them into daily operations. Leading organisations ensure that these principles are actively discussed and implemented. Discuss a specific Core Value or the Core Purpose in weekly or monthly meetings and evaluate decisions against these criteria. Recognise employees who exemplify these values.

Use the Core in HR Decisions

Incorporate Core Values and Purpose into HR processes. Evaluate employees not only on performance but also on how well they embody these principles. When hiring, assess candidates against these values to ensure cultural fit. For example, if “passion” is a Core Value, ensure candidates demonstrate genuine enthusiasm.

Exercise to Strengthen Your Core

Just as athletes focus on core strength for stability and endurance, organisations should plan quarterly actions to reinforce their Core Values and Purpose. Use the One Page Strategic Plan to outline these actions, ensuring they are systematically addressed and integrated into the company’s operations. This approach will differentiate your business and strengthen its foundation.

Rockefeller Habit #7 Key Takeaways

1. Awareness: Core Values and Purpose are known by all employees.

2. Integration: Executives and middle managers refer to Core Values and Purpose in praise and reprimands.

3. Alignment: HR processes align with Core Values and Purpose (hiring, orientation, appraisal, recognition).

4. Reinforcement: Actions are taken each quarter to strengthen Core Values and Purpose within the organisation.

 

Rockefeller Habit 8 – Your Entire Team Can Articulate Your Strategy

Moving Beyond Traditional Strategic Planning

Traditional strategic planning often results in a cumbersome process that produces a thick binder, which ultimately gathers dust on a shelf. This approach lacks engagement and execution.

In contrast, the One Page Strategic Plan offers simplicity and clarity. It is designed to be shared across the organisation, driving alignment and execution. It ensures everyone is literally on the same page.

The BHAG®

The BHAG®—Big Hairy Audacious Goal—introduced by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last, is the long-term (10-25 year) goal for your company. It should be ambitious and inspiring, challenging the team while being aligned with your Core Purpose, Core Competencies, and Profit/X. This creates what Collins calls the Hedgehog Concept—simple yet powerful.

For example, Southwest Airlines’ Profit/X is profit per plane, which is different from the industry’s profit per air mile. Southwest’s BHAG aligns with the number of planes in service.

Defining Your Core Customer

Understanding your core customer is crucial. Go beyond basic demographics and create detailed personas in 25 words or less that capture how these customers think and act. Identifying your “juicy core” customers helps you target those niches that are small but highly profitable.

Brand Promises and KPIs

Brand Promises explain why customers should choose you over competitors. Develop a lead Brand Promise with two supporting promises. For example, BuildDirect.com’s lead Brand Promise is “Best Price,” supported by “Best Customer Service” and “Product Expertise.”

To ensure you meet these promises, establish Brand Promise KPIs (Kept Promise Indicators) measured daily. These KPIs act as guarantees, and if not met, should trigger mechanisms that address the shortfall. Tecstone Granite, for instance, guarantees “The order is 100% correct or it’s free,” ensuring accuracy in their products.

Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch allows every employee to articulate what makes the company special. It is less about sales and more about ensuring that each team member can clearly and concisely communicate the company’s strategy and unique value proposition.

Implementation

Every employee should be familiar with these elements and able to communicate them. This alignment is crucial for strategic coherence and execution. If your team struggles with this, it may be time to revisit your strategic planning process to improve alignment and clarity.

Rockefeller Habit #8 Key Takeaways

1. Every employee should be able to explain the key components of the company’s strategy clearly.

2. Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG®): Progress is tracked and visible.

3. Core Customer(s): Their profile in 25 words or less.

4. Brand Promises: The promises and their corresponding KPIs are reported on weekly.

5. Elevator Pitch: A compelling response to the question, “What does your company do?”

 

Rockefeller Habit 9 – KPIs for Everyone

Did I Have a Great Day or Week?

Each team member should be able to summarise if they’ve had a good day/week in terms of results and productivity.

Your business should have 3-5 measurable company goals. Every employee should have 1-2 individual KPIs that align with these goals, based on their roles. These KPIs ensure that employees are aligned with the company’s strategy, vision, and goals. The key is for individuals to take ownership and report on these KPIs each week. This approach helps everyone understand their performance and what they need to do to influence outcomes.

Aligned Personal Critical Numbers

As discussed in Rockefeller Habit 2, each employee should have an individual Critical Number that aligns with the company’s Critical Number. This alignment creates a clear line of sight for each employee.

Rocks for Everyone Drive Results

Just as the company has 3-5 Rocks to support the Critical Number, every employee or team should have their own Rocks to support theirs. This approach can drive significant progress. For example, with 30 employees, you could accomplish 90-150 more tasks each quarter.

Coaching for Better Performance

Elite athletes and teams achieve peak performance with the help of a coach. Similarly, executives often need coaching to hold themselves accountable and improve performance. Coaching is recognised as a high form of leadership, essential for molding effective people into effective teams.

It’s important for every executive and middle manager to have a coach or peer coach to hold them accountable for behavioural changes. Companies are encouraged to hire an external coach, preferably a Scaling Up Certified Coach, to lead annual and quarterly planning sessions and work monthly with the CEO and the executive team.

Rockefeller Habit #9 Key Takeaways:

1. Weekly KPIs: Each role/person reports on 1 or 2 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) weekly.

2. Aligned Critical Numbers: Each employee has a Critical Number that aligns with the company’s Critical Number for the quarter. 

3. Quarterly Priorities: Individuals/teams have 3-5 Quarterly Priorities/Rocks that align with the company’s priorities.

4. Coaching Accountability: Executives and middle managers have a coach (or peer coach) holding them accountable for behaviour changes. 

 

Rockefeller Habit 10 – Scoreboards Everywhere

A Situation Room Plastered With Metrics and Data

Your conference room should be filled with goals, metrics, and data that drive decisions. Set it up like the White House Situation Room, displaying your One Page Strategic Plan and key metrics as trend lines. Use multiple large monitors to share critical data in real time.

Visible Values and Goals

Make sure your Core Values, Core Purpose, and priorities are posted throughout the company. This keeps them alive and serves as a constant reminder for employees, guiding behavior and decision-making. It also helps align customers, job candidates, and suppliers who visit.

Scoreboards Everywhere

Key metrics and KPIs should be visible throughout the company. Create simple, clear scoreboards that allow every employee to see how the business is doing at a glance. Departments should display their own unique KPIs to drive insights and accountability.

Strategic Execution Platforms

It’s important to have a system to develop, manage, and track the plan, assessing progress on priorities in real time. While starting with downloadable files and spreadsheets is possible, it becomes challenging to extract data without an automated system.

Many clients use an online strategic planning and execution platform, conducting their management meetings within this platform. This provides visibility, accountability, and transparency into each executive’s actions. CEOs and team members can instantly see the status of each quarterly priority, eliminating the need for meetings or reports to guess the status of strategic priorities.

A Certified Scaling Up coach can guide you on the benefits of using a strategic execution platform. Combined with the Rockefeller Habits and proven Scaling Up Growth Tools, it will help make your business more accountable, profitable, and easier to run.

Rockefeller Habit #10 Key Takeaways:

1. Situation Room: Establish a space for weekly meetings, whether physical or virtual.

2. Visible Values and Goals: Post Core Values, Purpose, and Priorities throughout the company.

3. Scoreboards: Display current progress on KPIs and Critical Numbers everywhere.

4. Tracking System: Implement a system for tracking and managing cascading Priorities and KPIs.

 

The Rockefeller Habits provide a structured approach to managing and scaling a business, emphasising the importance of alignment, accountability, and consistent execution. Implementing these habits is not about ticking boxes or following a rigid set of rules; it’s about fostering a culture where everyone in the organisation understands their role, contributes to shared goals, and works towards continuous improvement.

The strength of the Rockefeller Habits lies in their ability to create a cohesive and engaged team. By focusing on clear communication, regular feedback, and visible metrics, businesses can ensure that every employee is aligned with the company’s vision and strategy. This alignment transforms everyday tasks into meaningful contributions towards the company’s success.

Adopting these habits requires commitment and discipline. It involves regular reflection, adjustment, and a willingness to hold each other accountable. Yet, the benefits are worth the effort. Companies that embrace these practices often find themselves more agile, better able to handle challenges, and positioned for sustainable growth.

Incorporating the Rockefeller Habits into your business operations can be transformative. We recommend beginning to implement 1 or 2 habits each quarter and tracking progress on how the team incorporates them. 

The Rockefeller Habits checklist is all about creating a living, breathing strategy that evolves with your business and keeps everyone focused on what truly matters. As you embark on this journey, remember that the goal is not perfection but progress. Each step you take towards embedding these habits is a step towards building a more resilient and successful organisation.

If you want to start implementing these processes and strategies, book a call to learn how we can help you achieve your business goals and guide you and your team on the path to success.

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