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Fun and Focused: Choosing a Quarterly Theme


Fireworks for Celebration

Is everyone in your organization on the same page? 

What seems like a straight-forward question gets to the heart of a complex and critical challenge for leaders: creating and maintaining a culture of alignment.

The problem appears to be widespread. Business writer Anne Loeher found “93% of employees don’t really understand what their organization is trying to accomplish in order to align with their own work.”

When strategic plans are compiled in binders or long slide presentations, leaders face an uphill battle getting their employees to not only understand what the strategic priorities are but also to buy into and internalize plans. 

As we’ve previously highlighted on this blog, selecting a focused number of priorities and tying compensation or other rewards to achieving priorities are critical to executing on strategic plans. This aligning of individual efforts with overall goals goes hand-in-hand with having a single big vision for your organization, a strategic plan all on one page, and a select number of organizational core values

But to bring all these best practices together in a way that excites and motivates employees, executives should consider implementing a team-wide “Theme” following each planning session. 

The Power of the Quarterly Theme

While planning may produce many company goals, choosing a single theme gets to the heart of what it actually means to have a “priority”. As Essentialism author Greg McKeown writes, “The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.” 

Themes are not only an effective way to create this kind of singular focus, but also a fun and engaging way to roll out strategic initiatives through an organization. The practice is widely used by sales teams, but also works well to get entire organizations moving towards accomplishing the quarter’s top priority. 

Business coach Robert Fish, recommends five easy steps to developing a quarterly theme: 

  1. Identify your #1 Thing for the quarter to serve as Theme Topic
  2. Decide how you are measuring success on your #1 Thing
  3. Turn your #1 Thing into a fun and engaging Theme (flex that creativity!)
  4. Create a reward for accomplishing your goal (doesn’t have to be monetary)
  5. Communicate and roll out the theme to the whole company

Choosing your Theme

To go along with this list of 127 themes, we’ve chosen a few of our favorite themes from the Scaling Up archive to help leaders brainstorm themes that can get their organizations moving forward together. 

  1. Focal Point Coaching and Rocky Balboa

Focal Point Coaching was going through their third planning cycle, having only recently become fanatic about daily huddles. They chose the quarterly theme of “Rocky”, as the franchise was rebooted in theaters and leaders idetentified the movie with the competitive spirt that drove their organization. One of their goals was to gain public recognition for great franchise support. With the competitive spirit of “Rocky” driving them, Focal point improved from 11th to 2nd in a ranking of North American franchises. 

  1. OneHarvest and Operation Bonus 

In the last quarter of a lackluster financial year, produce suppliers One Harvest were way behind their sales targets. Their quarterly theme of Operation Bonus tied hitting their target to a bonus. Employees placed pictures of what they would spend their bonus on if they achieved the goal on a wall right where they do huddle. People brought in pictures of vacations, cars, houses, and guitars! While not the most original theme name, the idea worked and OneHarvest beat their target by 2%. 

  1. Employment Group: Golden and Still Rockin’ at 50

Employment Group workforce solutions has been around for 50 years. To keep their employees motivated and aligned, Employment group huddles daily and chooses an annual theme. During the quarterly kick-off, they introduce the quarter’s company priorities and quarterly bonuses if targets are met. In honor of the company’s 50th anniversary, they chose “Still Rocking” and the executive lip-sync’d hits from the likes of Elvis and the Beach Boys 

The Final Word

Quarterly themes may not make sense in every organization. But especially for growing organizations, themes can be an especially effective method of keeping employees engaged and focused on executing the top priority. 

If your company uses quarterly themes, we’d love to hear from you!


For more strategies on how to get your team moving in one direction, subscribe to our newsletter or talk to an Align advisor today!