COPE works as a simplifying framework to help structure thinking and empower. It’s a way for most to add discipline to planning at different levels and time-spans by working through context, objectives, priorities, and enablers:

  • Context – The broader setting for why the objectives matter. Mission. Vision. Intent.
  • Objectives – What need to get done now. Often quantified as goals.
  • Priorities – The few most important things that will deliver the objectives.
  • Enablers of the priorities include tools, systems, processes, resources and the like.

Lead with context

Empowering delegation starts with getting others to understand WHY what they are being asked to do matters. Think in terms of mission, vision, and intent

  • Mission gets directly at what people are called to do and why it matters to those you choose to serve, your stakeholders, PE backers, or family owners.
  • Vision is a picture of success in which all can envision themselves. Note it’s not your vision for others. It’s their vision.
  • Intent, derived from the military “commander’s intent” gets at the overall purpose or end state, helping people understand how what they are being asked to do fits into the broader situation and effort.

For example, a family might decide to move from New Jersey to New York as a way to improve their lives (as any reasonable family would.)

Make concrete with objectives and goals

This gets at WHAT needs to be accomplished. If the context is the overall mission, vision and intent, the objectives are the pieces that add up to that. They are more discrete, more concrete. Everyone should have the same direction. At the same time, different people will be working on different objectives with measurable goals that will propel the entire enterprise in that direction.

  • Objectives are more general.
  • Goals make them measurable. If, for example, the objective was to “grow market share,” the goal might be to “grow market share from 20% to 25% by the end of the year.”

For our family moving from New Jersey to New York, their objectives might include finding a place to live, getting a new job, enrolling the kids in school.

Spell out how with the priorities

Priorities and enablers are the two components of HOW things are going to be accomplished.

Priorities are the few most important things that must be done to deliver the objectives and goals. Different objectives will have different priorities.

This is about choices, about choosing where to focus first. By definition, that means choosing not to do other things now. As my partner, Harry Kangis, put it, “Choosing not to do something that’s a bad idea is easy. The hard thing is choosing not to do something that’s a good idea – for somebody else.”

In their book “Extreme Ownership,” Jocko Willink and Leif Babin make a case not just for getting down to the few most important priorities, but for tackling them one at a time, starting with the most important, most urgent before turning any attention to the second priority.

Our moving family’s priorities might look like this:

  1. Place to live: safe, convenient, enough space for all
  2. Job: rewarding, satisfying, convenient
  3. School: highest caliber, college preparatory, convenient

Enable success with tools, systems, processes, resources and the like

It’s not enough to give people context and direction, clarify objectives and spell out the how priorities. People need resources to succeed. Tools help them individually. Systems and processes help them fit into the whole and work with others. Resources fuel all.

Part of the system and processes must be clarity of authority and accountability. People need to know what tactical decisions they can and cannot make on their own. And they need to know how you’re going to measure results with what standards of performance and when.

Our moving family may need tools like these:

  1. Place to live: computer access to find available places, real estate agent to provide local market knowledge, transportation to check places out, a budget for renting or buying
  2. Job: resume, LinkedIn profile, interview training, coaches
  3. School: list of local schools, school reviews, introductions

Deliver and adjust as required

All this sets up delivery. Track milestones along the way so all know what’s getting done by whom by when. And adjust the allocation of resources as you work through your priorities.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #818) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan

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