Rockefeller Habits Checklist

Managers who have completed the Rockefeller Habits Checklist (which can be downloaded at often ask us two questions:

  1. How did we survive/thrive for all these years yet have nothing checked off on the list?
  2. Are the habits in any kind of order?

Responding to the first question, we remind executive teams that this is an execution checklist. It’s not necessary to implement any of these habits to build a long-lasting organization. It just means you’ve been leaving massive amounts of money and time on the table. And if you have a killer strategy and/or heroic people willing to work 18-hour days, eight days a week, these habits will make up for the messes created by sloppy execution and lack of discipline.

To answer the second question, you can’t implement any of what I’ve taught unless Rockefeller Habit No. 1 — “The executive team is healthy and aligned” — exists. The order in which you implement the other habits doesn’t matter. Choose just one or two each quarter, based on what will give you the most immediate benefit as you would with the rest of our crossword puzzle-like tools. Over 24-36 months, you’ll have moved through all 10 habits.



The Executive Team Is Healthy And Aligned

Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” defines the unhealthy situations that can derail your leadership team: an absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. If one or more of these afflictions exist, then address it before you tackle any other aspect of execution.

We strongly suggest purchasing Lencioni’s affordable “Team Kit.” Take your leadership team through his assessment and training process to strengthen the levels of trust, healthy debate, commitment, accountability and results. It’s a great tune-up for even healthy teams. At a minimum, require all leaders and managers to read his book once a year. It’s a quick read, and a refresher can prevent new problems from arising within the team as you scale up.

Many of the Rockefeller Habits reinforce routines that keep the team healthy, like taking a few minutes to share personal and professional good news at the start of a weekly or monthly meeting. Other ways tohelp the team build trust include the following:

  • Personality and leadership style assessments, which help team members appreciate each other’s differences.
  • Meal and social time during off-site planning sessions and monthly management meetings.
  • Shared learning experiences.

Once the team is healthy, then it is ready to tackle the tough work of setting priorities successfully.



Everyone Is Aligned With the No. 1 Thing That Needs To Be Accomplished This Quarter To Move the Company Forward

Rockefeller Habit No. 2 starts with identifying your Critical Number, introduced and popularized through Jack Stack’s classic book, “The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company.” Though all your metrics are critical, reserve the term Critical Number for your measurable No. 1 priority, even when other metrics are nearly as important.

To derive the one Critical Number, imagine the hundreds of important things you need to accomplish lined up like dominoes. Find the lead domino: the one initiative that, when pursued, makes it easier to accomplish everything else. Or identify the constraint — the choke point or bottleneck — and address it first. For more on how to choose this “critical” constraint, read my favorite business book of all time, “The Goal” by the late Eliyahu Goldratt. Scaling up is all about eliminating constraints — in the business and for customers.

It’s tempting to have a few “main” priorities, but that just means your focus will be pulled in different directions, thus not really achieving anything of significance. For true scalability to occur, I urge you to prioritize one goal and make sure everyone is on board with achieving it.

Scaling a company takes time — it’s all about taking a step forward, checking in and adjusting accordingly. This can only happen if there are regular check-ins and goals. One such goal is the quarterly goal that allows for small wins, which leads to your company’s focus on its No. 1 priority.



Communication Rhythm Is Established And Information Moves Through The Organization Accurately And Quickly

Meetings have gotten a bad rap, with some corners eschewing the benefits of meetings. However, I   believe daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual Meeting Rhythms help to address the No. 1 challenge people face when working together: communication.

It might sound counterintuitive to have this many meetings, but when executed properly, they actually save everyone a lot of time in the long run. Communication will become much more open and smoother, and your team will have the clarity and feedback it needs to focus on the company’s No. 1 priority.



Every Facet Of The Organization Has A Person Assigned With Accountability For Ensuring Goals Are Met

Getting accountabilities clear throughout the organization is crucial. There should be one accountable person assigned to each cell within the organization, and this needs to be clear throughout the organization. Of course, this doesn’t mean this person is the boss or gets to make all the decisions.



Ongoing Employee Input Is Collected To Identify Obstacles And Opportunities

Ah yes, data — both measurable and immeasurable — will fuel clear decision making. This is the first key component for qualitative data you’ll need to guide the business. It is critical for senior leadership and middle managers to engage their employees in data collection from within the company. In other words, roll up your sleeves and prepare to take notes.

Here are some guidelines we recommend:

  • Collect data from your employees, especially your sales channels and those on the front line as they are closest to the action.
  • Talk to one employee a week. Here is the question senior leaders should ask: “What should the company start/stop/keep doing?”
  • Pay attention to the “stops” as this will give you an idea of the roadblocks your people face and what to eliminate.



Aligned Reporting And Analysis Of Customer Feedback Data Is As Frequent And Accurate As Financial Data

We implore all executives and middle managers to have a “4 Questions” (4Q) conversation with at least one end user each week. Particularly in business-to-business situations, you may have to bypass your distribution channels and purchasing agents (with permission) and talk directly with those benefiting from your products and services.

The 4Q conversation refers to the four questions that we suggest leaders ask customers in person (not on a survey):

  1. How are you doing?
  2. What’s going on in your industry/neighborhood?
  3. What do you hear about our competitors?
  4. How are we doing?

The key is to get them to talk about their favorite subject: themselves! The first question will give you an understanding of their current situation. What are their pain points? What are their priorities for the coming year?

The second question offers insight into industry trends in general. What are the newest changes or technologies? Who is buying whom in the industry? And if you are talking with consumers, what are they and their neighbors thinking/feeling/talking about?

The third query is probably the most important because it can help you cut through your own biases. Only after you’ve asked your customers these three questions should you ask about their reactions to your offerings if they haven’t shared already. Remember, this call is about them, not you!



Core Values And Purpose Are “Alive” In The Organization

This habit will give you a baseline for current and future decisions including hiring, sharing praise, and giving constructive criticism. I like to think of core values and purpose as being “alive” in an organization.

Having a purpose (a much better way to say “mission”) gives your company the critical “why” behind all that it does. Your purpose needs to be more than just making money.



Employees Can Articulate The Key Components Of The Company’s Strategy Accurately

Does everyone in your organization know your brand strategy including your three main brand promises? If everyone on your team can’t share your “elevator pitch” when asked, then you might need to work on your team’s alignment.



All Employees Can Answer Quantitatively Whether They Had A Good Day Or Week

Every member of the team, from the senior leadership to staffers, needs to be able to objectively answer the question, “Did I have a great day or week?” But here’s the key: Each person must report on one or two KPIs weekly.

If they can’t, then it might mean that they are not clear on their priorities and their KPIs. In order to move forward together, everyone must be aligned. Think of your organization as if it were a machine. In order for the machine to work flawlessly, all parts must work well and work together.

Some companies use a whiteboard that gets updated daily or weekly (and discussed at meetings), and some print charts from spreadsheets and post them on the wall. Others have dashboard systems to automatically generate live data. You will succeed only if every team member in your company looks at the information and makes adjustments or decisions based on their weekly KPIs.



The Company’s Plans And Performance Are Visible To Everyone

Even if you’re seated in the nosebleed section of a stadium and can barely see the action on the field, you can always see the score. And now that everything has gone mobile, the real-time digital scoreboards should be the standard by which we monitor our own company performance.

At a minimum, have your metrics, goals, and plans visible in a place where you host the various weekly meetings (i.e., establish a “situation room” for weekly meetings, whether they’re physical or virtual. In the case of a virtual meeting, the “room” might be a particular conference line.).

At some point, when the company is bigger than 50 employees and expanding into multiple locations, keeping track of all the cascading priorities, metrics, and data can become an Excel spreadsheet nightmare. And as a growing company must continue to upgrade its accounting, CRM, and operational systems, it is important to have a system in place for tracking and managing the cascading priorities and KPIs.

Having a single place to house all of this very important data makes your business run more efficiently, and your team as a whole will have much greater transparency and alignment to the big company objectives that you set.

The end goal is to keep the output from the growth tools top of mind, like the score of your favorite individual athlete or team.



While the habits are listed in no particular order and you can start with whichever you want, we give our clients one rule: they must start with Rockefeller Habit No. 1—the executive team is healthy and aligned.

It is nearly impossible to implement any of the other habits without checking off Habit No. 1 first. Once that is realized and your team is ready to go (i.e., they can fight without killing each other), pick one or two habits each quarter and work on those.

Start with the habits that will have the most immediate benefits, and over the next 24–36 months, you will get through all 10 habits. Outside of Rockefeller Habit No. 1, the order is up to you.

This isn’t a one-time thing but a process that will make your journey easier. As the company scales up, you can continue to refresh the habits.

To download your copy of the Rockefeller Habits Checklist, visit today.

Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), with over 13,000 members worldwide, and chaired for 15 years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” held at MIT, a program in which he still teaches today.

Founder and CEO of Scaling Up, a global executive education and coaching company with over 200 partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scaleup.