‘Tis the Season for Writing Effective Annual Initiatives

By Tiffany Chepul

dateMon, Nov 20, 2017 @ 11:30 AM

It’s that time of year again – just about everyone on a annualinitiatives.jpgtraditional calendar year is gearing up for Annual Planning! You and your team will invest so much time, money and effort in finalizing your 2018 plan. If the outcome isn’t a clear, executable plan with well-written initiatives, those resources will have been wasted. 

When consulting with clients to review their Annual Plans, here are some things we look for to determine if their Annual Initiatives are set up to deliver success. All execution-ready Annual Initiatives share these characteristics:

Start with a Verb

Annual Initiatives are things you and your team have committed to doing in the coming year. They are long-term projects, supported by priorities and actions throughout the year. Therefore, they should begin with a verb and be very specific. The team will deliver much better results and have much tighter execution if the Annual Initiative states, “Drive $40M in Revenue from new clients,” rather than just, “Revenue Goal.”

Clear Ownership

Each Annual Initiative should have one clear owner. This person acts as the quarterback of that project all year long. They are the advocate for their Initiative to make sure it gets the resources it needs to bring it across the finish line as Green by 12/31. They are also responsible for statusing that initiative (at least quarterly) in Rhythm.

Measurable Red-Yellow-Green Success Criteria

Just like your Quarterly Priorities, each Annual Initiative should have clear Red-Yellow-Green success criteria. What does the team consider success and failure on each Annual Initiative by the end of the year? Some ideas may have come up during your Destination Postcard exercise. Also, it is common for some of the Annual Targets to show up as Red-Yellow-Greens on the Annual Initiatives. 

Supporting Priorities

Each Annual Initiative will take multiple quarters of relentless execution to achieve Green. Some of those Priorities will be done just in Q1 & Q2. Others may need supporting priorities in all four quarters of the upcoming year. Think through what that looks like now. If you are working in Rhythm, you can even put placeholder Priorities in upcoming quarters to help think through your year. We call this a 4-Quarter Flyover Plan for your Annual Initiative. At every Quarterly Planning session, the team will review the progress of each Initiative and make adjustments. However, it’s helpful to think about the execution of an Initiative holistically and how it will impact your entire year up front.

Connects to Your Strategy

Annual Initiatives need to make sense in the context of driving your Strategy forward. They are, after all, the connector between your strategy and your execution. If you think about the bigger picture of the BHAG, Winning Moves and Annual Initiatives, they all fit together. Your BHAG is where you want to be in 10-25 years. Your Winning Moves for Growth and Winning Moves for Profit are elements of your 3-5 Year Plan that get you to your BHAG. Your Annual Initiatives should drive the Winning Moves in your 3-5 Year Plan. Therefore, if you want to achieve your strategy, you must have strong execution year over year. And, your Annual Initiatives have to drive your Winning Moves forward. In Rhythm, you can link your Annual Initiatives directly to the Winning Moves they support.

So, happy Annual Planning, and make sure all of your Annual Initiatives are execution-ready!



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Tiffany Chepul


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images