Lean Quarterly Planning: How Complex Companies Plan & Drive Out Waste

By Chris Cosper

Lean Quarterly Planning

The primary goal of any lean initiative is to drive out waste. Have you considered whether or not you Lean Quarterly Planninghave waste in your quarterly planning process? Many companies, especially complex organizations with multiple business units, locations, product lines, or divisions, struggle to find a way to get their teams focused and aligned around the right set of priorities every quarter. The synergy and momentum you’ll gain when you figure this out will increase productivity, improve employee morale, and help you achieve your goals faster.

The wrong planning process, one that’s not perfectly designed to match your company’s unique structure and needs, can cause waste in multiple ways. Here are a few to consider:

  • Waiting: Time is of the essence. You only have 13 weeks in every quarter. If it takes you 2-3 weeks to nail down the details of your plan and communicate it to the people who will execute, you’ve already wasted 20% of your time.
  • Defects: Accuracy and quality are critical. Making decisions without reviewing critical information, both hard data and personal insights, can cause you to prioritize the wrong initiatives. A quarter’s worth of energy focused on the wrong priorities is a massive waste of resources.
  • Over-Processing: What do you really need? Over-processing is the act of putting more into a process than is valued by the customer. In this case, you and your employees are the customer. Be sure your planning process (including pre-planning, planning, and post-planning) isn’t overly complicated or more burdensome than needed.

Chapter 5 in the book Predictable Results: How Successful Companies Tackle Growth Challenges and Win, shares the story of one company’s journey to discover a lean approach to planning that worked for them. Like all lean journeys, it required a mindset of continuous improvement where we began with a vision of what we wanted to accomplish and made adjustments every quarter. Today Flexfab, a global leader in high-performance silicone and advanced polymer products with operations on four continents supplying multiple industries (about as complicated an organization as you can imagine), continues to fine-tune their planning process to achieve great business results.

Download a free copy of this chapter to learn how Flexfab's quarterly planning  process helped align business units and kill silos.

Here’s the five-step planning process that worked for Flexfab:

Step 1: Understand Your Current Environment

Do the necessary pre-work and involve the right people to understand what you’ve accomplished and learned over the past quarter, what adjustments you made and why, and what opportunities and threats you face in the upcoming quarter.

Step 2: Review Your Strategy and Annual Plan

Begin your planning by reviewing elements of your core strategy and discussing how well you are progressing on your annual initiatives. What needs to be done next to achieve your annual goals?

Step 3: Envision a Great Quarter

Discuss where you need to be at the end of the quarter for it to be considered a success. Determine your measurable targets and set clear success criteria for each. What victories do you want to celebrate 13 weeks from now? 

Step 4: Discuss, Debate, and Agree on the Details

Create a quarterly execution plan to achieve your company’s top three to five priorities. What does success look like for each, who is the owner, and what are the steps to achieve success?

Step 5: Cascade and Communicate the Plan

Involve the people who will do the work in creating their own execution plan - one that’s realistic and has the full buy-in of everybody involved.

Take an honest look at your quarterly planning process this quarter and consider whether or not you have room for improvement. Good luck on your journey and let us know if we can help.

Download Free Quarterly Planning Agenda

Want to learn more about Quarterly Planning? Check out these additional quarterly planning resources:

Value of Outside Facilitation for Quarterly and Annual Planning

The Anatomy of a Great Quarterly Plan (Infographic)

10 Tips for a Successful Quarterly Planning Session (Video)

How to Choose the Right Priorities During Your Quarterly Planning Session

Tips to Help You Prepare to Facilitate Your Next One-Day Quarterly Planning Session

How Much Time Should I Allocate for My Quarterly Planning Session?

The Definitive Guide to Quarterly Planning

Rhythm Systems Quarterly Planning Resource Center

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images  

Chris Cosper


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images