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How Much Time Should I Allocate for My Quarterly Planning Session?

By Alan Gehringer

    Fri, Sep 28, 2018 @ 12:00 PM Strategies for Growth, Annual & Quarterly Planning, Strategy Execution

    By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail – Benjamin FranklinHow much time for quarterly planning

    It is that time of the year again: time to prepare for your quarterly planning session. A question that I get frequently is, “should we plan for a one-day or a two-day quarterly session, and what do most of your clients do?”

    I do not think there is one right answer; it depends on the company, where you are in your year, and the maturity of your strategy development.  Most clients would like to have their long-term strategy developed the first year we work together.  The challenge is finding time to work on the strategic elements of the plan such as Core Values, Core Purpose, Hedgehog, BHAG, Brand Promise and Guarantee.  We also need to spend time working on our Winning Moves to validate them and make sure they are going to yield the growth we are looking for.  Clients normally set aside time during their annual sessions to work on these items.  Some clients extend one of their monthly meetings to a half or full day to do the work.  Others schedule one day to plan quarterly and omit the monthly meetings.  This approach does not allow time to work strategically.  If you are not having productive monthly meetings, I suggest scheduling two days for your quarterly planning session.  This will give you time to work on your long term strategy, work on current issues or opportunities and spend some time learning as a team.

    Let us look at a typical one-day quarterly planning agenda:

    I. Welcome

    • Confirm Objectives

    • Review Agenda

    II. Opening Session

    • Check In and Good News

    • Review Ending Quarter

    (a) Results

    (b) Bright Spots

    (c) Lessons Learned

    • Review Prep Work

    (a) Review Start-Stop-Keep

    • Review Annual Plan

    (a) YTD progress

    (b) Opportunities

    (c) Threats

    III. Quarterly Execution Plan

    • Main thing and Critical Numbers

    • Company Top 3-5

    (a) Determine top priorities

    (b) Assign an owner to each

    (c) Set Red-Yellow-Green criteria

    • Individual Top 3-5

    (a) Determine top priorities

    (b) Set Red-Yellow-Green criteria

    • QA the Plan

    • Cascade Plan
    • Communication Plan

    What you do not see is any time to work on strategic items such as refining your BHAG or developing your Brand Promise.  In addition, you do not see any time devoted to working on your Winning Moves.   As I wrote in a prior blog, Winning Moves take time to get right.  After you brainstorm and do an initial evaluation of these key strategies, it takes a lot of work, and answers to the right questions to rest your future success on them.  This is where scheduling two days for your planning session allows the time to do the work.  We all know that if we do not schedule time to work on the business, the day-to-day business just takes over, and it is harder to keep our long term goals in our sights.

    A two-day session adds the following elements to the second half of the first day, which is similar to how an annual planning session runs:

    Strategic Thinking

    1. Review Strategy (Col. 1-3 of One Page Strategic Plan)

    2. Work on milestones from Path of Progress

    3. Strategic Discussions (Agenda Items)

    You can customize the agenda based on what the company needs to work on.  If you have nailed your strategy, this is a good time to work on an issue or opportunity, or spend time learning.

    I find that more clients are setting aside two days for their planning sessions.  The more time you spend aligning with your core strategy and strengthening your team, the more successful your quarter is going to be. 

    Even if you do hold monthly meetings, I still recommend scheduling two days for your quarterly planning session.  The companies that do this develop stronger plans that enable them to execute faster while working towards their long-term goals.

    So let me know what your team is doing and the results you are experiencing.  In addition, remember that the most important thing is to set time aside to plan each quarter.

    Good luck and plan well, Alan 

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    Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

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