Does it always feel like your team is rushing to setup your annual or quarterly planning sessions? The days go by, and then all of a sudden it's two weeks before the start of the new quarter and BAM - you don’t have a plan yet! Here we go again; it’s scramble time! You find yourself rallying up the troops to find a date on the calendar that works for everyone (which is typically hard to do at the last minute), you scurry to think through an agenda that isn’t as thoughtful as you would like, and the day of the meeting, you “wing it.”
What if you could remove this chaos from the equation and have your team be aware of all the critical meetings for the year ahead of time? Even better, what if you could have a system that keeps everyone accountable to those meetings so that you can sleep soundly at night knowing that your team is planning their time around your business’s critical meetings instead of the other way around?
Here are some steps to get your company organized with a healthy meeting Rhythm so that you can grow your business with purpose:
First, start by identifying your critical meetings. Create a list of the critical meetings for your organization. What meetings do you know you will have every year that everyone on the executive team must attend? What about at the department level? Below are examples of critical meetings that we at Rhythm Systems recommend for our clients:
- Your Think Rhythm - Give yourself time for strategic thinking to focus on the future of your business.
Set up a series of Strategic Thinking Meetings: This strategic thinking time will allow you to work through the foundational aspects of your business (BHAG, Core Values, Core Purpose, Brand Promise, 3-5 year plan with Winning Moves) and strengthen them over time. How frequently should you have a strategic thinking meeting as a team? Decide the frequency with your team. Maybe it is quarterly at first, and then it moves to monthly, or even weekly. The more frequently you meet, the faster you will turn the flywheel. Whatever frequency you choose, the important thing is that you make it a meeting that you are all committed to attending.
- Your Plan Rhythm - Plan your year of planning.
Set up these meetings with the intention of connecting your strategy to actionable execution plans that your team can rally behind and fully support. These meetings include the following:
- Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 Planning for Executive and Department Teams
- Annual Planning
- Budget Planning
- Staff Planning
- Your Do Rhythm - Now it's time to DO the work each week.
Set up these meetings with the intention of keeping each person accountable for achieving the execution plans listed above. These weekly meetings allow your team to make any critical adjustments needed to keep your plan on track. If you are a Rhythm user, you have a visual 13-week dashboard to forecast your quarterly priorities and KPI results that enables your team to share data and insights each week. These meetings include:
- Executive Team Weekly Adjustment Meeting
- Department Weekly Adjustment Meetings
Second, turn this list into one of your company’s most valuable assets, your Rhythm plan. Think through the following items for each critical meeting and document:
- What is the purpose of each meeting? Complete this sentence for all meetings: "We will be successful if ..."
- The frequency for each meeting. Is it weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually?
- The order of your meetings. Do you want quarterly planning sessions before or after Board meetings? If you run your business on the annual calendar year, what comes first? Start from January and work your way to December.
- The day and time each meeting is to be held. I find it most helpful not to always set a hard date. Instead, select a time that your team can remember. For example, all Quarterly Planning Sessions are on the third Thursday before the new quarter.
- Decide who the owner for each meeting is. This person is responsible for ensuring that everyone is prepared and knows the agenda in advance and, most importantly, for making the meeting happen!
- Create an agenda for each meeting. Many of these meetings can have a standard agenda that will repeat every time you meet. Others will require more forethought based on the purpose of the meeting.
- Plan to be prepared. For each meeting, ask yourself, “Will the team need to do homework before the meeting?” If so, how much time in advance do we need to give everyone to prepare? A week? Two weeks? What is the homework? Send out the homework assignment and the agenda with plenty of time for the team to prepare.
Lastly, put all this information into action, and create a system that works best for your team:
- Create a document and communicate the critical meetings to everyone on the team.
- Communicate and ensure that everyone is crystal clear about how important these meetings are to the growth of the company.
- Take it a step further, and add each meeting to Outlook or your calendar service for each participant with recurring meetings.
- Once you figure out the right flow for your team, stick to the schedule – this will be the hardest but most rewarding aspect of the process.
As you get started creating your Rhythm, be prepared to be flexible and make adjustments to the timing of your meetings until it feels right for your team. Every team is unique and will need a variation on the suggestions above, but I guarantee, if you put some structure around your operational Rhythm, it will help your team stay connected, aligned and accountable. What steps will you take today to create your Rhythm?