Rhythm 2.0 - Create a Killer Annual Plan for the New Year

By Ryan Walcott

A winning year begins with a winning execution plan.  My prior blog posts on Rhythm 2.0 focused on how Rhythm helps you with a Think rhythm to create focus for the future of your business.  Now, we will move on to talk about how Rhythm 2.0 helps you with your Plan rhythm.  The Plan rhythm is all about creating a rhythm of execution planning to let all teams and individuals know what they are supposed to do.

Rhythm 2.0 greatly expanded the ability for your executive team and departments to collaborate on and record your execution plans for your year and each quarter.  Rhythm now gives you a place to plan your planning session, record your focus and initiatives for the year, attach notes, and collaborate as a team before and after your session to get your plan right.

Below are 3 simple steps to using Rhythm to create a killer annual plan for the new year.

Step 1 - Plan Your Annual Planning Session:

An effective annual planning session involves more than merely showing up and talking about what you want to do next year.  This seems obvious, but I’ve seen teams neglect this step and regret it.  Who should attend? Where should the session be held?  How should the room be set up?  What is the most effective agenda?  Rhythm gives you a place to record and collaborate on these items as a team before your session so that you can get the most out of your team’s energy and time investment.

The screen below shows both pre- and post-session notes recorded by team members.

Gazelles Systems Rhythm 2.0 - Create a Killer Annual Plan for the New Year-Annual Planning-Planning Notes


The comments screen gives you a place to collaborate with team members to determine strategic discussion topics for the session.  You can keep these discussions going after the session if needed using this comments screen.

Gazelles Systems Rhythm 2.0 - Create a Killer Annual Plan for the New Year-Annual Planning-Comments


You can also attach important documents relevant to your planning session in Rhythm so that you don’t have to hunt them down on file servers or e-mail in order for your team to share information.

Gazelles Systems Rhythm 2.0 - Create a Killer Annual Plan for the New Year-Annual Planning-Attachments


Step 2 - Determine a Focus for the Year:

The goal of an effective Annual Planning session is to determine your Main Thing (Theme) for the year and the effort it will take to achieve it.  The Year Focus and Key Initiatives screens shown below give you a place to work on and record these items with your team during and after your session.

Think about your top goals/targets for the coming year.  These targets could involve revenue, margins, profit, customer service, employee engagement, or other goals for the year.  Next, think on and determine your Main Thing for the year that will focus your team to achieve your targets.  A good Main Thing will both engage the minds of your team (analytical) and speak to their hearts (emotional) to motivate change to achieve success.  Brainstorm these together as a team and record your answers in the Year Focus screen shown below.  This will ensure that everyone understands what was agreed to during your planning and that the goals stay clear throughout the coming year as you execute as a team to achieve them.  You can also record your Critical #s for the coming year.  Critical #s are your top KPIs aligned to achieve your Main Thing.  One should be People related (Employees, Customers, Shareholders) and the other Process related (Make/Buy/Deliver, Sales, Record Keeping).

Gazelles Systems Rhythm 2.0 - Create a Killer Annual Plan for the New Year-Annual Planning-Year Focus


Step 3 - Determine Your Key Initiatives to Achieve Your Main Thing:

Now that you know your focus, you must determine how you will achieve it.  This involves understanding and agreeing as a team on the top 3-5 priorities the team will direct its energy towards in the coming year.  We call these priorities Key Initiatives.  Key Initiatives are large efforts involving many team members over the span of several quarters in a year.  Work hard to limit your team to 5 of these in a year so that you can stay focused and aligned to achieve your Main Thing for the year.  Typically the top 3 will be aligned to achieve the Main Thing, and 1 or 2 more will be needed for other important items for growth in the new year.  These should be recorded in the Key Initiatives screen shown below.

Rhythm 2.0 - Create a Killer Annual Plan for the New Year-Annual Planning-Key Initiatives


The team should consider the following for each of the Key Initiatives:

 - Description

 - Success Criteria (Red, Yellow, Green)

 - Who will take ownership

 - What 3-5 year Winning Move or Key Thrust is this Initiative aligned to achieve?

The answers to those questions should be record in Rhythm so that the entire team understands and has clarity concerning the results the company plans to achieve from each Key Initiative.  Linking each to a Winning Move or Key Thrust will enable you to understand and later visualize how your annual and quarterly plan execution is connected to your strategy.

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I hope you will use these new Rhythm screens to help make your annual planning process more effective.

In my next blog I will show you how to create a killer quarterly plan that is aligned to help you achieve your annual plan.

Helping you grow,



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Ryan Walcott


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