Have you ever been in your departmental quarterly planning session, and you feel resistance from a team member about taking on another priority? You may hear things like, “I’m too busy - I have too much on my plate.” In the meantime, some team members are wondering why they are saying this. From their perspective, they don’t seem to have more to do than everyone else. I mean, what do they do anyway? This can fuel some resentment between two people or the whole team. It is simple, you have a team bandwidth, meaning that there are only so many members of your team and hours in the day.
Or, maybe you have team members that want to take on a lot of new priorities. They are the ones who say, “I got it” - “I want to be on that team” – “Add more priorities for all of us.” This can make some team members uneasy because they feel that last quarter some members overcommitted and did not complete a project on time. Someone may suggest they do not volunteer and hand it to another team member – hmmm. How is the team feeling now?
At Rhythm Systems, our team is growing. As it grows, so does the need for some group knowledge of what everyone else is doing. It is important that we work off facts rather than opinions. The more we know and understand about each other, the better we can work as a unit. The more we feel the team understands about us as an individual, the more we feel “safe” to share what is truly happening in our work life. That is why it is so urgent that once a quarter we slow down, share, and listen.
As nice as that sounds, we also have jobs to do, KPIs to hit and new priorities that we are all fighting to get included in the quarterly plan. How do you balance the need for team knowledge and still get a solid departmental quarterly plan built?
Do a little legwork before the planning session. You might have each team member calculate their “new priority” bandwidth for the upcoming quarter. There are many ways you can accomplish this.
Here’s how our Sales and Marketing team did it:
- Step 1: Figure out how many weeks you truly have open for new priorities in the 13-week race. What does that mean? Each quarter is made up of 13 weeks. So, you would think that means you have 13 weeks to get your work done. However, not every quarter is created equal. Calculate how much time you have left after you take a closer look at bandwidth project management.
- Fact 1: There are 65 workdays in a quarter.
- Fact 2: Everyone needs time off; holidays, personal days and vacation time. Be sure to not count those in your available work time.
- Fact 3: Some events, trainings, and travel are required. You will not be able to work on a new priority during sales trainings or while at a trade show, for example. Be sure to account for your quarterly commitments.
Here are results from 6 different team members:
- Step 2: How many hours per week does your “day job” and weekly meeting rhythm consume?
- Fact 1: There are only so many hours in week. Let’s assume 40 is the agreed number for the work week.
- Fact 2: Most people have weekly meetings that are already set. This includes things like weekly sales & marketing meetings, weekly finance meetings, special team and project meetings. Don’t forget to include time for your direct reports. Do you meet with them weekly? Also, do not forget to include time for your weekly Meeting with Myself and your department’s Weekly Adjustment Meeting.
- Fact 3: We all have to put time towards our “day job.” This is the job we were hired to do. What does it take to be a sales rep (how many calls/week, time for emails and follow up). A social media marketing job will be different (blog twice a week, follow twitter 3 hour/day). These are the jobs you have to do before new priorities are decided.
These are hours that are already filled in your schedule. So, let’s do the math.
If the team shows up to quarterly planning with this knowledge and shares it at the beginning of the meeting – it should help everyone get on the same page. We even allowed time for each person to present it and really talk about their quarter.
Here is what we learned:
- Some people had no idea how busy they already were. By presenting facts, it was hard to argue that they were very close to or already overloaded.
- Some people had no hours left over. So, when they said they were feeling full – they were right.
- Other team members did have bandwidth, but it was partially due to the nature of their job. They are the ones who move the marketing priorities from idea to shipped – so once the priorities were decided on, that work goes on their plate each quarter. For example: Rebrand website this quarter.
- We also gained a new appreciation for each person’s role and what they do.
- Every person in the room could leave with an accurate summary of the entire team’s bandwidth. Each team member used the same math so the answers were consistent.
This allowed us to ask some great questions, like these:
- How many new priorities can this team truly handle?
- Who is more available this quarter?
- Who else can help on this project? People outside our team? It is amazing what you can learn if you reach out to others in the company for insights or help. It may help you move faster.
- What can we divide and conquer? At some point, it is time to stop meeting and just split the responsibilities up and get it done.
- How important are the projects we are voting on?
- Are there some processes we can improve that would buy our team members extra bandwidth within their day job?
- What will get pushed to next quarter?
- What can we say no to?
- Is your quarter unique due to the extra travel or are all your quarters this packed?
- How will we finish the year on track?
This was an eye-opening experience for us, and it certainly made our sales and marketing team’s quarterly planning more enjoyable. So from now on, first up on our team's Quarterly Planning agenda: every team member will share their Start Stop Keeps and their quarterly bandwidth. All of this knowledge upfront will make for a much smoother planning session.
Want to learn more about Quarterly Planning? Check out these additional quarterly planning resources:
Rhythm Systems Quarterly Planning Resource Center
Editor's Note: This blog was originally published on May 5, 2015, and has been updated.