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The 12 Week Year – summary and review

The Big Idea(s)

You probably have an execution problem more than you have a planning problem. Stop trying to plan annually. Plan and execute in 12 week blocks to help you focus and shorten the feedback loop between plans and evaluation. Have a long-term vision, but focus relentlessly on activities (lead measures, which you control) that will lead to the outcomes you desire (which aren’t directly in your control). Think more deeply about your goals, keystone actions, and the obstacles you’ll face before committing to carrying out the plan. Write clear weekly action plans and review them weekly, scoring yourself on how well you executed on your keystone actions. Have a week off (or a week to catch up and celebrate). Repeat.

A bit more about it…

Trying to make and excute plans on an annual basis is ineffective because:

  • The long timeframe causes you to lose a sense of urgency at the start, followed by a feeling of panic or hopelessness later in the year
  • We tend to be unrealistic about planning over long time frames, setting too many goals which dilute our focus.
  • Long-term vision and aims are good – but planning too long term is ineffective because the further ahead we try to plan, the more unknown factors we’ll face, making our plans less useful. For this reason, don’t try to plan a year’s worth of 12 week years in advance. Just plan and finish one.
  • In reality, even the people who do make detailed long term plans rarely execute on them, and even more rarely check back and review how we did in execution with a view to improving.

These comments resonate with my experience, and I like the idea of 12 week years as tools to focus on what’s most important and maintain a sense of urgency.

There are some useful tools and exercises in the book, but plenty of repetition too (the benefit of short chapters for each idea was offset by a second set of chapters that seemed to repeat all the earlier ideas).

Silly attribution of a famous but indirect/inaccurate Robert Louis Stevenson quotation (” Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences”) to both Stevenson and Ralph Waldo Emerson undermined my confidence in their attention to detail and clarity of thought.


I will be trying out the 12 Week Year, so I recommend the book with reservations. The focus on lead measures resonated with 4DX, which was perhaps more helpful on the topic but missed the 12 Week Year trick.

One to read quickly or skim, and try it out.

Here’s a (non-affilliate) link to the book on Amazon (UK / US)

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...