As we dive head-first into Annual Planning season, I was helping to review our Do-It-Yourself materials that we provide for Rhythm clients who lead their own planning sessions. One of the exercises we recommend for clients to do as they develop Key Initiatives for the year ahead is called Destination Postcard. During this exercise, clients are asked to tap into their imaginations. We ask them to imagine stepping into a time machine and picture themselves at this time next year reflecting back on the great year they've just completed. From the vantage point of the future, we ask them to write an inspiring postcard to themselves detailing how it feels to reflect on the year, and then fill out the picture with a handful of things that happened to make the year so great. The specific things that happened to create a great year are the beginning of the brainstorming list for the company's annual priorities.
Conducting a creative writing exercise like this during your Annual Planning session may seem odd to some people, especially those who are used to building annual plans based strictly on hitting financial or growth targets. Hitting those same targets may come out as part of what made the year great in the Destination Postcard exercise, but starting with the emotion does a few things that starting with the cold, hard numerical facts does not. Tapping into how it would feel to have a great year might open up different, more creative ideas that could potentially become Key Initiatives than strictly focusing on your targets and operational priorities for the year. You may imagine that a great year would include a celebration for your overworked team, transforming your work environment in some way that enhances your team's energy and efficacy, or a significant shift in the role of the CEO in the organization, say from managing day to day operations of the business to stepping back and focusing on the company's strategic direction. Allowing your brain to relax and play around with a little imaginative time can bring up all kinds of ideas that would not occur to your team if they were focused strictly on the task at hand.
Starting with imagining how a great year would feel does something else for your team. You can create emotional buy-in from the key players in the room by using this exercise to tap into what they are really passionate about accomplishing this year. If the team is excited and feels an emotional connection to your company's annual goals, they will be more likely to stay committed to executing on those priorities even if obstacles arise or the next shiny new thing pops up half-way through the year to distract them. Plus, connecting your execution plan with your team's passion and your company's long-term strategic vision has never been easier to do thanks to the newest version of Rhythm software. You can directly link the annual Key Initiatives that come out of the Destination Postcard exercise with the Winning Moves and Key Thrusts in your 3-5 Year Plan in Rhythm. Start with finding out what your team is excited to accomplish this year, discuss, debate, and agree on your top Key Initiatives, and then link them in Rhythm so that everyone can see clearly how your great year is a stepping stone that will get you closer and closer to achieving your BHAG.