6 Right Discussion Tips for Annual Planning

By Liz McBride

My kids are back to school, pumpkin beer is stocked on shelves and the Halloween catalogues are arriving. That’s my signal that we’re gearing up for the 4th quarter frenzy of annual planning. Do you already have your two-day session scheduled? Do you already know the discussions you’ll plugAgenda for Annual Planning blog~Rhythm Systems into the agenda?


The recommended agenda for Annual Planning in the Meeting Rhythms Guide leads with Review, Discuss and Brainstorm and Connecting Strategy to Execution. How do we know what the right discussions are? Well, pop open a pumpkin beer and read 6 Right Discussion tips:

  1. Give pre-work - Get your teams’ brains working before they step foot in the session. Two weeks before the session, have the team enter in Rhythm or email the Start-Stops-Keeps, Opportunities and Threats tool.
  2. Go deeper - Departmental leaders should be encouraged to ask for contributions from their team and use that as input to the pre-work.
  3. Look for Patterns - Consolidate the findings from the executive teams’ pre-work and look for patterns. You may be surprised to see something you didn’t think was an issue boil up to the top.
  4. Map to KPIs - See if the patterns map back to KPIs. Are the KPIs red or are they Green but not impacting the change you need? Save some time to come up with Action Plans to Green or adjust the KPIs to get the results you need.
  5. Do not rush - Plan on the first day to be devoted to reviewing the pre-work, reviewing your strategy and having the right discussions. If you invest in the time upfront, the execution planning will go more smoothly.
  6. Let them be heard - Don’t just squirrel away the results from the pre-work and announce the discussion topics. Allow the team to report out their pre-work and vote on the most important topics. You may uncover new ideas and areas for discussion while making your team feel heard.

 OK, yes, I agree, it’s too early for pumpkins and costumes, but it’s not too early to start thinking of Annual Planning. If you think you already know the topics to discuss, you may be in for a trick rather than a treat without input from the team. Think about your right discussions strategy so you can leave on the end of day two with a solid plan you could cheers your pumpkin beer to (water is perfectly acceptable as well)!

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Liz McBride


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