Keep the Love Alive with Your Annual Plan and Avoid Sharknado

By Liz McBride

keeping the love for your annual plan alive

dateFri, May 31, 2019 @ 11:03 AM

You’re a couple of months into your 2019 annual plans - the honeymoon phase. Your annual plan still looks good, keeping the love for your annual plan aliveyou’re excited to see it as often as possible, can’t stop talking about it, probably taking annoying selfies with your plan. I get it - it’s pretty exciting. You are bound to learn throughout the year things you didn’t know about your plan when you first fell in love. Perhaps the way it's executed isn’t the way you would do it, or others aren’t excited about it and it’s bringing you down - making you second guess.

At the heart of your plans are the people who are charged with getting aligned, focused, and executing steadfastly to achieve the plan and its annual key initiatives and their supporting quarterly rocks. When you were sharing your executive team’s shiny new plan with the greater organization, you felt confident in its success. As you should - it really is a keeper. The thing is, I am reminded of an exercise from the Mastering the Art of Change and Grow with Less Drama breakout session at our Breakthrough Conference. In the session, people from cross-functional organizations drew vivid images of the drama that can get in the way of our love: the drama of change.

Here are a couple of my favorite masterpieces:




Here we have a plan to venture into a blue ocean. This is a fast growing team who is constantly bringing on new hires. The ‘old guard’ is getting pretty tired of these newbies coming in with their energy and new ideas. Ideas that have failed in the past and just won’t work. Chaos ensues. And Sharknados. Naturally. It’s change.

Change Management Chaos


And, here is how big ideas can turn into big “Oh Sh&t!” moments and disengaged teams when questions and fears fall on deaf ears, and clarity is missing.

Executing on your beautiful plan may require certain degrees of change. The more gnarly the change, the greater the impact on the human element. It’s not the annual plan itself that’s the problem. It’s how people feel and respond to the transition of the change the plan triggers.


Research shows 70% of changes fail because people believe that results relative to the effort are either not worth it or not working.

I’ve spent the better part of my career helping teams face the drama and navigate through transformational change; so, this research really struck a chord and here’s my explanation of why the percentage is so inflated:

  • Very few annual strategic initiatives clearly state what desired results are and the needed measures of success and corresponding KPIs to track whether or not the needle is moving. Without knowing expectations and concrete results, we rely on our own experience or opinions to judge success.
  • Expectations tend to be around a smooth and issue free rollout - striving for perfection.
  • Change will involve complainers, or even worse, disengaged team members who we never saw coming until surveys like this are presented.

As I’m writing this blog, we’re in week 5 of the quarter. This is the perfect time to seek clarity and make sure you are focusing the majority of your time on the element of your role that has the best odds of getting your beautiful plan on the right path - as a coach. As Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0) reminds us, leaders should spend their time tying these initiatives to the Core Purpose, and help everyone involved be able to state how it relates to the purpose of their work. In order to free up time to be the coach you need to be, delegate where you can and spend your time breaking down any barriers, appreciating efforts, and empowering your team to get creative in executing on the strategy.

You’re prepared to coach - now make sure your quarterly plan is truly execution-ready to avoid being part of the 70%.

  • Is your success criteria clear? In your next weekly team meeting, ask your team to put in their own words what success is and what their part in success is. Then ask your leaders to do the same with their functional teams. It’s hard to confirm clarity without a two-way conversation.
  • Do the communication, action plans, and project rhythms fuel the mindset of operational excellence? Are you bringing the right members together in a regular meeting rhythm to make adjustments along the way and, again, be clear on what success is? Few initiatives will be perfect, but there needs to be plans and communications in place in order to set the right expectations and mindset on continuous improvement to reach your team’s unique definition of excellence.
  • Haters gonna hate - and that’s a good thing! They provide great data and insights. Do you have a plan to reach out to and bring in the influencers in your organization as early adopters or members of the team? Are you seeking complaints or opportunities for improvement? Seeking early and often feedback helps you tighten the plan even more and receive early indicators that you need to provide more clarity.
  • Are there any priorities currently yellow or red on your plan’s dashboard that indicate more support is needed? Reach out to the owners to brainstorm ways to get on track, see how you or others can support them, and remind them about the purpose of the initiative. You still have enough runway in the quarter to coach, remove obstacles, and empower the owner towards success.

Take some time today and create an action plan for you to coach your team away from potential Sharknado and “Oh Sh$t!” executions of your beautiful plan. Keep the love of your plan alive by engaging the hearts and minds of your team. The only way through it is to face the drama - and the dashboards - and coach to success.


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

How to Conduct an Annual Planning Meeting

How to conduct Quarterly Planning sessions for Execution Ready Plans 

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

How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning

Annual Planning: 9 Tips to Focus & Align Your Team With A Great Plan for 2019

Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center

Annual Planning Best Practices

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images  

Liz McBride


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images