As we wrap up Q3 and move on to Q4, I’ve had a lot of conversations with clients and my team about the best practices for closing out a quarter. Typically, we focus a lot of time and energy on planning for a new quarter…but what about closing out the one that’s finishing?
In order to get better at planning and execution, it’s a critical step to pause and reflect on the goals you set out to accomplish at the beginning of the quarter. How’d you do? Was your plan too ambitious? Not bold enough? What adjustments would you make if you had it to do again?
This process is key not only for goals that didn’t finish successfully but for all goals. If you don’t slow down to reflect on your progress toward achieving your goals, you may risk repeating the same execution mistakes in the future or overlooking a bright spot that could accelerate your progress in other areas as well. Slowing down to reflect can feel difficult to prioritize in the fast-moving world we live in, but this is the only way to really get better at setting and achieving goals. You can get lucky for a while, but for sustained success, you have to be intentional and make sure you’re continuously learning and improving.
Here are some recommendations for closing out your quarter:
1. Put it into your process. Our expert facilitators walk through results, lessons learned and victories from the quarter that’s ending during the planning session for the next quarter. As they are helping to build the plan for the new quarter, they are asking if there’s any work to be done on the goals from the previous quarter and prompting clients to think about what they learned or could have done differently. However, many of our clients plan a few weeks before the quarter ends and may not have the final status of everything at that point. You may decide the best time for closing out the quarter is actually a few weeks into the new quarter. If that’s the case, ensure you have a trigger somewhere to go back and do it. It’s very tempting to just keep moving forward and never revisit those goals, but then you miss the learnings and potential improvements for next time.
Here are ideas for working it into your process to reflect on your ending quarter’s execution:
- Make it a standing agenda item in your team’s weekly meeting for the first 3 weeks of a new quarter to discuss learnings together.
- Set a deadline company-wide for everyone to make a final status and comment on all of your goals.
- If you do quarterly performance reviews, make this part of the conversation between contributors and their managers.
- Randomly call out people on your team to reward them for goals completed.
2. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Review each goal - each KPI and each Priority that you own. For each one, make sure you put a final status that reflects how you finished the quarter on that goal—then make a comment that includes the following:
- How did this goal finish compared to my plan?
- What went well? Did I learn anything on this project that could help me in other projects in the future?
- What could have gone better? If I had to do it again, what adjustments would I make to improve my execution on this goal?
3. Decide what’s next. Looking at each item, decide if your work on the goal is done.
- For Priorities, mark it complete if you’ve finished. If not, what needs to happen next? Does it need to be a goal for next quarter, or can you include a few tasks to finish it up?
- For KPIs, do you need to make any adjustments on your success criteria for next quarter? Are you measuring anything that’s not adding value? Are you missing anything critical in your KPI list?
4. Share with your team. Any key lessons learned or victories should be shared with the team. Everyone can learn from each other and work hard to set better goals together for the next quarter. This can be done in the planning session, the weekly team meeting, a separate retrospective meeting, or by reading through comments independently.
If you are a Rhythm software user, check out Rhythm University for a detailed quarter close out checklist to help you with this process. Armed with all your learnings from last quarter, now you’re ready to have a great Q3. Good luck and happy planning!
Here are more resources on Quarterly Planning:
Rhythm Systems Quarterly Planning Resource Center
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