It may seem daunting to tackle your Strategic Annual Planning session for 2021. With so much uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic, economic crisis, and upcoming election, it may be tempting for some company leaders to postpone planning. The temptation is understandable; nobody wants to waste time crafting a detailed annual plan that will have to be scrapped in Q1, which happened to many of us in 2020.
As we wrap up Q3 and move on to Q4, I’ve had a lot of conversations with clients and my team about the best practices for closing out a quarter. Typically, we focus a lot of time and energy on planning for a new quarter…but what about closing out the one that’s finishing?
In order to get better at planning and execution, it’s a critical step to pause and reflect on the goals you set out to accomplish at the beginning of the quarter. How’d you do? Was your plan too ambitious? Not bold enough? What adjustments would you make if you had it to do again?
I have two small children sleeping quietly (for once) as I write this a little before 6 am. While the COVID-19 crisis has been hard for everyone—especially those who have been sick or lost loved ones or livelihoods—I know firsthand just how challenging it has been for working parents with small children. In the early days, when preschool and daycare were closed, I was trying to distract them with a movie long enough to get through a Zoom call or two and that would inevitably lead to a game of “push mama’s buttons,” both figuratively and literally, in which I’d have to hold the computer above my head so they didn’t hang up the Zoom.
If you read our blog often, you know that we are fans of Topgrading, and we frequently talk about hiring and developing A Players. In a previous post, I gave an example of one of our clients who did an audit of all of their employees and created a KPI for “% of A Players.” If you aren’t familiar with Topgrading, you might be wondering about this term - “A Players.” What does it mean?
Excited. Ready. Anxious. Eager. Let’s go!
Worried. Tired. Stressed. Done. Overwhelmed.
At the end of a meeting, we usually recommend closing with an exercise where everyone in the room shares one word on how they are feeling leaving the meeting. When you get to the end of your next Quarterly Planning Session, you don’t want to hear the second set of closing remarks. You want the team to leave feeling energized and ready to take on the next 90 days. Successfully achieving your strategy may hinge on it.
I’ve just finished reading John Doerr’s book, Measure What Matters: OKRs - The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth, and it is full of really practical goal-setting tips and great stories from real companies like Intel, Google, and even a few smaller companies. What struck me throughout the book, though, is that the companies in many of these stories rely on spreadsheets, documents saved in company intranets, or even Post-it Notes hung up in their offices (and in one story, by the toilet) for communicating the goals. Using a spreadsheet or paper-based process for OKRs is like parking your Ferrari on a busy street under a tree on garbage day. Why would you risk ruining something so beautiful as a well-written goal with poor communication and accountability?
What is a huddle meeting? The daily huddle meeting has been common practice for many companies for ages. No matter your industry (manufacturing, healthcare, technology, etc.) or size, a daily team huddle can be a good idea to increase alignment, communication, and productivity for your teams. According to an article in Inc magazine, huddles "keep companies focused on the same strategic goals, ensure timely answers to pressing questions, and enforce team accountability because everyone knows what everyone else is up to." The face to face time every 24 hours keeps team members aligned and on task.
Sounds like a simple concept: Alignment. What makes this so hard to achieve? The fact is, if you are hiring the right people, you will have a lot of smart people on your team who disagree with each other. This is a good thing. Alignment doesn’t mean that everyone starts on the same page; if that were true, then you’d just have a bunch of robots running around who all think the same way and who never challenge your ideas or come up with anything creative, interesting, or groundbreaking.
Difference of opinion among your team members is a key ingredient in developing the right strategies for your team, the ones that have been analyzed from different angles and debated in your planning sessions. However, when the dust settles and the decision has been made, this is where alignment takes over from diversity of viewpoints as the key to your strategy’s success or failure.
If you are like many of our clients, you may be considering adjusting travel plans for your team in the midst of the concern surrounding COVID-19. This will obviously have a big impact on most businesses, which makes it more important than ever to prioritize your team’s quarterly planning meeting. You’ll need to spend time thinking about the impacts to your team and your business, so even if you are canceling travel, don’t cancel your session! This is likely to be the most important virtual strategy session in the history of your company - even if you can't meet face to face. You need to be agile to respond to the ever-changing market conditions while creating your 3-5 year strategic plans.
It is no secret that your people are instrumental to the success of your business. In order to have a great company, you not only have to hire the right people and get them in the right seats as Jim Collins says, you also have to work to retain and engage those people once you have them. The best companies use key performance indicators for employees to make sure that they are getting the most out of their most important investment - their employees. Having the right set of quality metrics can greatly improve your performance management in creating a high-performing team.