Think You’re Ready to Execute Your Annual Plan? Take This Quiz

By Jessica Wishart

This is going to be a great year! You spent two full days working hard, envisioning the year you want, Annual-plan.jpghaving the tough conversations, figuring out the right targets and initiatives for 2016 to get you to your 3-5 year goals, and documenting what you think is the best plan. Now that you’ve put all that time and energy into your Annual Plan, let’s make sure it is execution-ready so you’re set up for the success you want.

Execution-Ready Annual Plan Quiz

Answer Yes or No to the following questions.

  1. Do you have a Main Thing and Critical Numbers for your year?

    Having a single, overarching focus for the year is really important to engage the team and get everyone aligned around the mission. Having your team focused on the same Main Thing for the year will allow you to move faster and focus your resources on moving the same rock. You can complete one big initiative together rather than starting several, unrelated projects and competing over the same resources to get them only partially done. You don’t have to choose a cheesy theme for this to be effective. You should pick something that’s going to be motivating to your team (not something purely financial, for example) that fits your culture.

    Once you have the Main Thing, choose a critical number that will support that Main Thing (Critical #1). Then, choose a critical number to counterbalance your first critical number (Critical #2). If you become overly focused on the first critical number, what  might slip through the cracks? Having both will keep you focused on measurable success for your year and help you to avoid being blindsided by unintentional results of that success.

  2. Does everyone know your Main Thing, and it is clear?

    This is your Focus Test. If the company doesn’t know or understand your Main Thing, they can’t be focused on achieving it. Your Main Thing is only beneficial to you if it causes the team to pull together and align around your primary goal for the year. They can’t do that if your Main Thing is confusing or not clearly communicated to them.

  3. Have you set the right Targets?

    Setting Targets for your year - things like Revenue, Gross Margin, # of employees or # of locations - is a key step in Annual Planning. You need to be clear what your goals are at the beginning of the year so that you understand what you are trying to achieve. For Annual Targets, it is critical to think about where you need to end this year in order to be on track to hit your 3-5 year Targets.

  4. Do you have 3-5 Key Initiatives with one clear owner each and clear Red-Yellow-Green® success criteria?

    Focus your team’s energy by having no more than 3-5 major priorities, or Key Initiatives, for the year. Any more than 5 and you run the risk of overloading the team and not successfully completing any of them. Keep your list short, and keep your initiatives aligned to support your Main Thing for the year.

    In addition to making sure your Key Initiatives pass the Focus Test, also put them through the Accountability Test. This is why you need one owner. You may have several people, or even several departments, hard at work on the initiative at different points in the year. The beauty of collaborative planning is that you can shepherd as many resources as you need to make it happen. But, you always have to have one person’s name next to that Key Initiative so that someone accepts accountability for getting it done. Otherwise, if everyone owns it, nobody owns it.

    Setting Red-Yellow-Green success criteria is another key element in establishing accountability for completing your Key Initiatives. If you don’t set your Green goal for the year in Annual Planning, then it can be like trying to hit a moving target - you need to know what success looks like on each initiative so you can stay accountable to hitting that goal. Setting your Red, or failure, will also help you execute in a way that avoids an unacceptable outcome on that initiative. Being clear on the SuperGreen, or stretch goal, from the beginning gives your overachievers something concrete to shoot for if they have bandwidth to go above and beyond.

  5. Do your Key Initiatives connect to your Winning Moves and Key Thrusts in your 3-5 Year Plan?

    Your Annual Plan should move you closer to achieving your 3-5 year plan. You should be able to connect most (if not all) of your annual priorities to those longer term strategic initiatives. If your Key Initiatives don’t move you closer to achieving your growth goals, carefully consider why you are taking them on. If you use the Rhythm Software platform, be sure to link your Annual Key Initiatives to your Winning Moves and Key Thrusts. 

  6. If you successfully complete the Key Initiatives and hit the Targets in your Annual Plan, will you also achieve your financial goals for the year?

    Remember those Targets we talked about in the beginning of the quiz? Are you set up to actually achieve the financial goals you set for your year? It isn’t enough to set a revenue growth goal; you have to have a roadmap for hitting this goal in your Key Initiatives. This is your Financial Test. If your plan isn’t set up to hit your financial plan, you will need to re-think where your team is expending energy and resources for the year.

  7. Do you have enough energy (Company and Group Quarterly Priorities) focused on your #1 Key Initiative for the year?

    The final test to know if your Annual Plan is execution-ready is your Energy Test. This last question can only be answered once you’ve also done your quarterly planning for the first quarter of the year. Ensure that you’ve got enough quarterly priorities at the executive team and departmental level to support each of your Key Initiatives. The Annual Plan is the foundation for each of your quarterly plans for the year, so remember to anchor your priorities for your 13-Week RaceTM on the Key Initiatives you laid out in Annual Planning. Keep an eye on your Key Initiatives as the year goes on - you will not make progress on them if you don’t have enough of the team’s energy working on them and statusing them weekly in the form of priorities.

Are You Ready?

If you answered "yes" to the questions above, then congratulations! You’re in great shape to execute your plan for the year. If you had a few "no" answers, then you probably want to take the time to slow down now and bring the team back together to finish your execution-ready plan. You will only be as successful as you set yourself up to be this year, so don’t waste time executing a plan that’s not well-constructed and complete.

Remember that your plan is just that - a plan. Life happens, and even the most carefully thought-out, detailed and executable plans require adjustments. You don’t know what the future holds, and that’s the exciting part! That’s why your quarterly planning sessions are so important. Now that you have a strong plan for the year, you can use your four 13-Week Races to be nimble and make adjustments, and hopefully, still hit those annual goals even if you have to adjust your course to get it done.

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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images


Jessica Wishart


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images