Bringing your team together for a few days of Annual Planning requires a big investment of time, energy and money. You may have flown people in, pulled some away from completing their Q4 priorities, caused others to double up to cover for those out of the office. This may be your busiest time of the year, but you know that taking time out for Annual Planning is the right thing to do. Here are a few tips to make sure you get full value out of your investment.
- Be careful not to overload your agenda. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the few days you have available.
- Make sure everyone is clear and aligned around the objectives and desired takeaways from the planning session.
- Create a basic time plan to go along with your agenda, and have someone in the room responsible for keeping the team aware of where you are relative to the time plan.
- Give yourself permission to deviate from the time plan if a topic requires more time than you thought it would. As long as the additional time is used for good, healthy debates on important topics, and not the beating of dead horses, it will be a good use of time.
- If you do deviate from the time plan, involve the team in deciding how you will make it up. You may choose to stay late or start early one day, or you may choose to cut or shorten the time allowed for another topic.
- Set some ground rules at the beginning of the session. Let the team discuss their expectations for full participation, candor, side bars, interruptions, tangents, and cell phone and computer use. Having this conversation up front creates an environment of accountability and a high level of commitment to the meeting.
- Celebrate your progress as you move through the session. Reflect on learnings and breakthroughs. Acknowledge someone when they’re brave enough to bring up a tough subject. Check in with each other along the way to make sure you’re all staying engaged.
Above all else, remember that it’s more important to be effective than efficient during your planning time. It may feel good to check a lot of items off of the agenda as you complete them, but not if it compromises the quality of your plan.