Are You Having Enough Discussions in Your Annual Planning Session?

By Patrick Thean

So, it's annual planning time, and your folks are getting together for the much anticipated planning session.  The meeting begins, and we start by reviewing what we learned and what happened from the year that is ending.  We review projects, financial metrics and reports, and department reports.  Sometimes, we fall into the rat hole of figuring out the forensics of what exactly happened.  And before we know it, it's lunch time… half the day has blown by.   Annual Planning

Has this ever happened to you?  This is a very expensive day, as you have your senior team out of the field getting together.  Would you instead prefer to spend more time discussing opportunities and solutions versus reviewing what has already happened?  But, we do need to review to learn. Yes, we do!   

Here are 3 suggestions to help you gain a couple more hours for discussion versus review in your annual planning session:

1.  Review Reports before the session:  Send out your reports a few days before.  Give everyone ample time to review and come ready for discussion

2.  Dinner the night before:  Consider having dinner with your team the night before, and review the year during dinner.  

3.  Review for Bright Spots:  Focus on the few things that went extremely well for the year.  Learn about what caused these bright spots and how to replicate them the following year.  Learn for the purpose of planning forward for a great year.  Avoid deep forensics during this meeting.  Focus more on what you are going to do versus what you have already done.

During your annual planning session, use a specific discussion process that everyone knows you are following.  This helps your discussions to stay on track as team members know what to expect.  It is also critical to make sure that someone is facilitating the discussion.  The facilitator then owns the process of making sure that all parties have the opportunity to participate and allow their contributions to be heard in the discussions.  Our clients love our 7 step Discuss Debate Agree process:

  1. Objective (Successful if?)
  2. Why Its Important?
  3. Facts?
  4. Discuss / Brainstorm
  5. Debate (Argue Against)
  6. Organize & Summarize
  7. Agree and Commit


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Patrick Thean


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