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How Using a Digital Planning Canvas Generates Better Results

4 min read
Planning Canvas in Rhythm

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Published October 10, 2022

Planning Canvas in Rhythm

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

Picture of Jessica Wishart

Jessica Wishart
Senior Product Manager at Rhythm Systems

Got your crystal ball ready for your annual planning session?

No? Hmm… Since you can't confidently see into the future (yet!), you need a plan B for your strategic goals. You need to create a solid plan but also be flexible enough to adjust when the world inevitably changes, presenting you with challenges and opportunities you did not see coming at the beginning of the year.

How to Create a Four-Quarter Flyover Plan

Our expert facilitators help our clients move from strategic goals to more concrete, execution-ready plans with an exercise we call the “4-quarter flyover plan.” Once you have some strategic discussions and narrow down the list to a handful of priorities for the year, this exercise can help to think through what actually needs to happen by when at a high level. Here’s how the exercise works:

Think through the major milestones for each of the Annual Priorities:

  • What is the correct sequence for each of these milestones?
  • Estimate how long each milestone should take and determine which quarter each milestone is likely to fall in.
  • Are there any milestones for one priority that are dependent on the completion of a milestone in another priority?
  • Are there any Annual Priorities that must be completed by a certain quarter?
  • Map out the milestones for each Annual Priority in the quarter you believe they are likely to be completed.

Learn More About Rhythms Facilitated Planning Sessions


Why Should I Have a Four-Quarter Flyover Plan?

Laying out the flyover for the year helps you think through whether you have the right resources and teams in place to achieve your goals, whether you’ve been too ambitious with the goals you’ve chosen, and whether your plan is even feasible. In the Rhythm software, we have a Planning Canvas where you can plug in these milestones, drag and drop to move them around, and even easily convert them into quarterly priorities when you’ve nailed down the plan.



The purpose of the screen is to help you brainstorm, visualize, and create your execution plan for the year. You create a blueprint for the year and see where you may have resource constraints or time challenges with your top Annual Priorities. Having this visual will help you identify and negotiate those potential obstacles as a team before the year starts.


Four-Quarter Flyover Plans Help Identify the Right Company Priorities

This exercise makes it much easier to identify the first quarter's Company Priorities and Individual Quarter Priorities. If you don’t have Rhythm software, you can use a whiteboard and sticky notes for the exercise. But, with Rhythm, moving from ideas to action is seamless, so you never get stuck with a blurry picture of a whiteboard that got erased a long time ago or a great plan that doesn’t actually get done. With the click of a button, you can turn ideas on the canvas into SMART goals for the quarter with one clear owner, Red-Yellow-Green success criteria, dates, and links to the bigger-picture goals they support. 


Revisit the Four-Quarter Flyover Every Quarter

And, for subsequent quarters, you can revisit the ideas in the canvas each quarter and make adjustments as you learn more and move through the year. Don’t spend too much time trying to fine-tune the details of the quarters beyond the very next quarter. The other quarters are just placeholders until you move into planning for that quarter.

Having a general sense of what needs to be done in broad strokes helps you allocate resources and make decisions, but you aren’t locked into any decisions for those future quarters. You have some building blocks to start with, but every 13-week race has its own challenges and opportunities, so you have the flexibility to move things around as needed.

Using a planning canvas helps you stay focused on your goals for the year while remaining agile in your execution. Try it out in Rhythm for 2023 and see how your strategy execution skyrockets!


Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Facilitation Guide


If you enjoyed this article, here are some others you may like:

Maximize Your Productivity By Focusing On the Right Priorities

How to Use Rhythm to Plan Cross-Functionally

Annual Planning For Departmental Groups

Your Priority Areas For the Next Quarter: Effective Goal Examples

Characteristics of Well-Written Priorities