How to Prepare for An Effective 2024 Strategic Planning Session [With Video]

By Jessica Wishart

Prepare for Annual Planning

dateTue, Mar 19, 2024 @ 05:06 PM

At this point in the year, many companies are gearing up to plan for the next year as part of their strategic planning process. Before you lock downPrepare for Annual Planning your budget for your next year, ensure that you spend a few days with the executive team to assess where you are on your strategic plans and strategic objectives and really think about where you may need to make additional investments to grow your business over the next year in this strategy meeting. Your annual planning session is a key part of your business rhythm; this is where you develop and advance your 3-5 year growth strategies or Winning Moves, map out the annual initiatives to get you there, and create your blueprint for your entire year of execution. To get maximum value out of this expensive time with your team, it is critical to have each person in the room prepare well.  The strategic planning session is an important part of your annual meeting to ensure your plan will help you hit your goals and achieve organizational alignment.


Here’s what the CEO should do to prepare well for Strategic Planning session:

  • Ensure the session is scheduled and communicate its importance to the team. Champion this process so that others see how critical their full participation is to the company’s success.

  • Decide on the right facilitator. You may have someone on your team well-equipped to run your session, or you may decide to hire an outside facilitator. Read more on how to be a good facilitator. The best-performing teams always hire a professional strategic planning facilitator to maximize their return on time and money invested.

  • Partner with the facilitator to craft the agenda so you will have the right discussions in your session.

Here’s what the facilitator should do to prepare for the Strategic Planning Session:

  • Meet with the CEO to customize a strategy session meeting agenda.
  • Coordinate the logistics for the session - the timing, the location, the materials, lunch and dinner plans, etc.
  • Determine the right prep work for participants to be fully prepared. Based on the agenda preparation with the CEO, what should you ask each team member to come fully prepared to discuss?
  • Distribute, collect, and analyze prep work before the session. If themes bubble up that should be added to the agenda for the session, work with the CEO to make an adjustment to the agenda.
  • Create a slide deck and any other visuals you may need for the session.
  • Let the participants know the key questions that you need answers to for the meeting so that they can prepare their answers for a better discussion.

Here’s what each participant should do to prepare for the strategy review:

  • Each team member should review the agenda before the meeting and take ownership of preparing for the discussions in advance. If your team is new to strategic Annual Planning, you may want to ask each person to complete Rhythm Fan Certification before your session. This is a great way to level-set language and give everyone a working understanding of the process of creating long-term strategic goals.
  • Depending on what’s on the agenda for discussion, each person should gather the necessary data and information from their functional areas to make the right decisions. For example, if you are the head of sales, you may need to bring in specific data about sales by customer, profit by customer, and sales by product or service line. You may analyze your pricing model or market share by category and come ready to provide a sales plan for the next year. Depending on the strategic discussions on the agenda, there may be additional insights to collect from your team. We often call these lessons learned from the prior year. What went well? What didn't work? What should we double down on? What should we back away from?
  • Everyone on the team should come ready to talk about any Winning Moves or Annual Initiatives they own. Prior to the meeting, each person should take the time to update the status of the longer-term strategic priorities they are accountable for, gathering needed data about the item, talking to stakeholders and people involved in the execution, and coming prepared to share next steps and insights with the team.
  • Each person should complete some basic prep work, such as a Start, Stop, Keep exercise prior to the session. This will give them the chance to begin thinking strategically and put together a list of things they believe the company should Start, Stop, and Keep doing over the next 3-5 years. Each department leader should gather inputs from their direct reports as part of this exercise so the executive team can have the benefit of the perspective of those closer to the customer and the work. As part of this exercise, the facilitator may also ask the team to compile a list of opportunities and threats facing the company over the next few years.

If everyone on the team comes to the session having completed the prep work above, you are well-poised to make the right decisions about your annual targets and initiatives. Don’t skip the needed preparation or you won’t have the right data to make good choices or have the necessary discussions in planning.  Remember that strategy execution (actually getting it done) is the key to an effective management process.

Prepare well, and happy planning!


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

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

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

How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning

Best Practices for Annual Planning

How to Conduct an Annual Planning Meeting

Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Jessica Wishart


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images