Did you know that nearly half of all companies fail to meet their financial targets? Much of this lack of success can be traced back to poor annual planning sessions. Perhaps you talked about the targets and set them, but you failed to create an action plan to get there. I understand - there is an amazing amount of work that goes into facilitating a winning planning session. We know how hard it is, as our Rhythm experts have facilitated thousands of successful planning sessions to set our customers up for success. This blog will give a high-level overview of the five keys to creating a winning annual plan.
Annual planning is one of the most important activities that companies do every year, yet few CEOs are annual planning facilitation experts. Let’s face it, they have achieved their success for the ability to execute and deliver business results, not the ability to facilitate a planning session. Many find that hiring an expert provides a substantial return on investment as they get to fully participate in the planning session, rather than running the sessions themselves (read this post on the value of an annual planning facilitator to see if it makes sense for you). A successful annual planning session sets the company up to achieve its targets from day one.
We’ve taken all of the field research that we’ve done and created a comprehensive playbook to have a great annual planning session. Highlights of the five steps are included below, and if like what you see you can download the guide for more information.
Step 1: Prep Work
Before you can really start planning for the future, you need to have a good understanding of where you currently are. Everyone on the team will come into the planning session with their unique perception of how things are going and some ideas for improving and growing the business. Allowing time for a little introspection at the beginning of the planning session will immediately engage everyone on the team and will establish some context for the strategic and future directed conversations you will soon be having.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Step 2: Work on Long-Term Strategy
Annual Planning should include a good balance of strategic thinking and execution planning. This is your opportunity to prepare your team for a successful year and connect strategy to execution. In order to plan for a successful year, you must have a good idea of the strategic direction you are moving in. Where do you want to be in the next 3-5 years and beyond? Because strategic thinking is a process, not an event, you will need to think ahead about how to use this time most effectively. If you have a fully developed long-term strategy, you could use this time to review your strategy with the team. If you have some pieces developed and some that need more work, you could spend this time focusing on just one strategic topic.
Here are a few strategic decisions you should be working on:
Step 3: Create a 90-day Execution Plan
Now that you have created the proper context, confirmed your strategy and envisioned a successful year together, you are ready to discuss the details of your execution plan for the next twelve months. You need to develop a solid quarterly plan with clear deliverables. Each of the quarterly priorities will also need an owner and Red-Yellow-Green success criteria. And taking it one step further, each member of the team should also identify the 3-5 individual priorities they are personally committing to that will support the plan. Each of these quarterly priorities should have 3-5 milestones to ensure that they stay on track.
There are four components to the Annual Plan that you will need to consider:
Step 4: Communicate with Departments
Having a great Annual Plan created by the executive team at the company level is important, but the truth is that most of the actual work will not be done at the executive level. Most of the work will be done at the departmental level, and even then, only when it’s broken down into bite-size quarterly pieces. Once the company plan is finished, each department leader should meet with their team to share the vision for the year, explain how the plan supports the long-term strategy, and discuss the department’s role in supporting it. The leader should also share the 3-5 priorities the executive team has identified for the first quarter of the new year. Based on that, the department should consider what their year should look like and determine the 3-5 priorities they will pursue in the first 90 days.
Here are the basic steps to get departments aligned:
- Share company plan
- Create departmental plans to support company plan
- Have departments share plans with each other
Step 5: Execute and Monitor Your Progress to Keep Plan on Track
Your Annual Plan is not complete unless you have set up every department and every person for success. Create weekly departmental and individual dashboards to track the progress of your annual and quarterly priorities. Weekly dashboards should include a few metrics to make sure that the departmental and individual “day jobs” are on track and a few growth priorities to make sure you are driving the growth initiatives in your annual plan.
The key to success is to make sure that you review what is on track and what is not every week. Make sure you are running a weekly ADJUSTMENT meeting - not a boring status meeting.
Here are the basic steps to keep the plan on track:
- Set individual priorities to drive goals
- Create dashboards to track progress
- Adjust weekly as needed to stay on track
Make a commitment to make this the year you give Annual Planning the attention it deserves.
Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center
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