CEO Planning for 2024 and Beyond: How to Avoid High-Cost CEO Mistakes

By Alan Gehringer


We are coming into that time of year when many companies are gearing up or doing their annual CEOs MIstakesplanning to prepare for next year. In preparation, we are presenting a webinar with the Association for Corporate Growth, ACG, to highlight some of the mistakes companies make and three essential lessons that can help you avoid them and the failure accompanying them. Did you know that, on average, only 50-60% of companies actually hit their annual performance targets?  The stats are not very good, even worse, if you have just participated in a merger or acquisition. Team members involved in a merger or acquisition want to know two primary things: where is the company going, and what do you need me to do today?

There is a lot at stake, and your board and shareholders are expecting you to perform. Because of the pressure, many CEOs stress out getting prepared for the session, trying to run it while participating, and taking care not to dominate the conversations. All the while, they ensure they come out with the right actionable plans. It takes a lot of discipline and work to get it right.

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You do not have to fail if you pay attention to 3 key things:

  1. Set clear expectations for an effective annual planning session and focus on the right things
  2. Run an effective session and develop the right plans for the year and first quarter
  3. Execute and make adjustments to get predictable results 

Let’s look at the first of the three important areas that can cause failure from the start: setting expectations for an effective planning session and focusing on the right things.

Determine who is going to be in the session. Make sure you get the dates for the session on everyone’s calendar so they can attend the session. Let them know how important the session is and that you expect them to be there and participate 120%.

Assign responsibilities to each team member to make it a successful session. Choose a Sergeant at Arms, timekeeper, note keeper, someone to keep the team on track when they go off on a tangent or down a rabbit hole too deep.

Determine who the right person is to facilitate the session. It’s not always the CEO; it has to be someone who has the skills to flush out the salient points of a discussion and keep the team on track and moving forward at the right level conducive to planning.

Make plans to get your team out of the office and go off-site somewhere. If you have the resources, make it somewhere friendly. This can set the right tone and provide a nice perk so people look forward to the session. It also shows the commitment you are making to planning. 

Plan on some team-building activities or dinners in the evening. This is a great opportunity to strengthen the team and discuss the day’s work in a relaxed, casual environment.

Customize and distribute the agenda for the session beforehand. Time it out and allocate sufficient time for important conversations and key strategic items. 

Send out homework and prep work to the team members. It may consist of pulling together financial reports, sales figures and projections, Start, Stop, Continue ideas, and a first shot at what some initiatives or special projects might be for the year. 

It would be best if you painted the big picture for the team. Remind them that annual planning is a process, not an event. Even though we spent two or three days together, the work still needed to be done, and we could stop there.

Stay out of the operational weeds. Leave that for when you return to the office.

If you have one, spend time reviewing your long-term goal or BHAG Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Spend time reviewing your Winning Moves and be prepared to speak to them and discuss the assumptions that have been validated and what to work on next. Review your sandbox and core customer to see if anything has changed.

Leaders should do some pre-planning with their teams and gather the necessary data to conduct the planning session. The more pre-planning done in advance, the more efficient and effective the session will be. 

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Set the expectations that you are going to come out with a strong annual plan with 3-5 key annual initiatives and a 90-day execution plan for Q1 plan to kick off the year with a vengeance.

Annual Plans done right accomplish 2 things:

  1. Drive your 3-5-year strategy forward to move you to the next base camp on your journey to reaching your BHAG
  2. Provide a clear action plan so everyone on the executive team and individual departments knows what they need to do for the year and the first quarter to get the proper work done




Looking for more Annual Planning information to help get you started? Check out our additional resources:

How to Conduct an Annual Planning Meeting

Annual Planning: 9 Tips to Focus & Align Your Team with a Great Plan

Annual Planning Playbook: 5 Steps to Create a Winning Annual Plan

Best Practices for Annual Planning

Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images  

Alan Gehringer


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images