5 Ways to Solve Problems Faster During Annual Planning

By Jessica Wishart

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dateMon, Nov 27, 2017 @ 11:30 AM

Your Annual Planning meeting is one of the most important—and expensive—few days for your company every year. How can you be sure to maximize your investment of time and resources? How can you ensure that you take full advantage of those few days to solve the most important problems, seize the right opportunities and set your company up for a successful year? 

Here are 5 Ways to Solve Problems Faster During Annual Planning:

1. Prepare Well: In order to get the most out of your planning session, you have to put the right energy and time into preparing for an effective session. A lot goes into this: coordinating all of the meeting logistics, ensuring the right people will be in attendance, planning the agenda carefully so you have time to have the most important problem solving discussions, communicating and collecting prep work from the team, gathering the relevant information ahead of time, preparing slides and handouts for the session, etc.—and that’s just for the facilitator. Everyone on the team should complete any assigned prep work and put some think time into the scheduled discussions ahead of time so you are all ready to have the best possible session.

2. Choose the Right Facilitator: In addition to all of the hard preparation that goes into a great session, the annual planning facilitator should also be well-equipped to lead the conversations around your most important strategic priorities and navigate any elephants in the room or difficult conversations that may arise. Many of our clients find it helpful to bring in an outside facilitator so that each team member can fully participate in the problem-solving discussions and so that a professional is accountable for keeping the meeting on track, leading those key discussions and shouldering the responsibility of much of the preparation for the session.

3. Gather the Right Data: In order to have the best discussions in your planning session, your team needs to have the right information at your fingertips. At the bare minimum, each person on the team should update the status of each Annual Initiative and Winning Move that they own. If you are using Rhythm software, use the Project View to drill into the detailed execution of each of your most important long-term goals.

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This will help you quickly see where your initiatives are off track and identify which discussions need your time and energy during planning. Don’t spend time on initiatives that are Green, on track for success and going well. Deploy the team’s valuable brainpower to solve challenges and address roadblocks on Annual Initiatives and Winning Moves that are stuck. Identify any additional data that you might need—do you need financial modeling or budgeting to have the right discussions? Do you need to talk to customers or employees in advance? Consider what information the team will need at their fingertips to make the best possible decision, and gather that information ahead of time. If you are using Rhythm, you can capture it all in the Attachments tab of your Annual Planning Meeting. Communicate the information in advance so the team can come prepared to move right to problem-solving rather than spend time sharing information and updating statuses.

4. Use Brainstorming Tools: Once you are in the Annual Planning session with your team, everyone should be well-prepared to have the right discussions and armed with the right data to make good decisions. Use brainstorming tools to get all the ideas on the table to solve your most important problems or capture your biggest opportunities. If you are stuck, try using our Breakthrough to Green Tool as a model for problem-solving discussions. Also, the Ideas Board in Rhythm software is a great tool to facilitate brainstorming with your team. If you have hired an outside facilitator, they should be well-equipped to help the team generate ideas.

5. Discuss, Debate, Agree: Now that you’ve got all the potential solutions on the table, it is time to get down to business. Turning great ideas into execution is often where companies get stuck. The first step to move from ideas to action is to reach an agreement on which idea(s) to move forward with to solve the problem. There are lots of ways to move the conversation forward, like voting on top ideas and discussing the top voted in more detail. For this part of the meeting to be as effective as possible, it is key to set expectations up front about how the decisions will be made (is it a democracy, or will all ideas be heard with one person ultimately making the final choice?) and to agree that everyone in the room will support the decision. Supporting a decision doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is thrilled with the decision, just that they will speak positively about it and do everything they can to ensure that it is successful.

If you follow these 5 tips, you should be set to have the right discussions and solve the right problems during your Annual Planning session with your team. Good luck, and happy planning!


Jessica Wishart


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images