They say a goal without a plan is just a wish. But in today’s age, when nothing seems to go as planned, is it even worth going through the motions of annual planning? I’ve heard frustrations from business owners and executives that say they’ve put in a lot of time on their annual plan, only to have the world change on them with a global pandemic, a loss of a key employee which derails their whole strategy, or a competitor that makes a move and changes the entire landscape. Is planning for the upcoming year really beneficial? In short, absolutely!  

The Benefits of the Planning Process: 

While your annual plan should be revisited quarterly and can change throughout the year depending on the circumstances, there is something to be said about the benefits of the act of planning itself, including:  

  • Thinking deeper by asking hard questions. Critical thinking is a skill and a process. The more you practice it, the more you’ll use it in everyday business decisions. The act of critical thinking encourages curiosity, creativity, problem-solving and independence. If you find yourself putting off the tasks that require more brainpower for thoughtless, autonomous duties, the planning process can help this to come easier to you.
     
  • Being proactive and anticipating future scenarios. While we can’t predict the future, imagining potential problems and discussing how to tackle situations specific to your industry and your community can help you put the right plan in place quicker when issues arise. This will make your business more agile with the ability to change and adapt your strategy with the challenge at hand.
     
  • Creating clear direction and being aligned as a team. Is your team all rowing in the same direction? While annual planning, even when your strategy shifts, your end goals should remain the same. The planning process brings your executive team together to review these goals and keep them top-of-mind. It also ensures that everyone is focused on the right things, and not inadvertently rowing against you.
     
  • Identifying bottlenecks and making decisions on how to correct them. Is your team performing at its best? How can you become more efficient in 2022? The planning process includes looking back on the past year, analyzing performance, and identifying areas of improvement that you can focus on in the upcoming year. It also allows your team to discuss these issues and become part of the solution.
     
  • Setting priorities and defining what success looks like. To maintain alignment and ensure your organization is working towards meeting your goals, annual planning sets individual priorities and expectations for each department and each individual. Ensure that every team member has a 90-day action plan with clear outcomes they are responsible for. Create clear steps that will ultimately lead to reaching your annual goals and outline key actions, benchmarks and timelines for the upcoming quarter. 

Redefine the strategic planning process to strategic thinking and execution planning. With your goals guiding you towards the results you have in mind for your business, identify individuals who will “own” specific actions within a specific timeframe to get you there. Execution plans should answer the question: “Who’s going to do what by when?” Create clear steps that will ultimately lead to reaching your goals.  

Start the goal-setting process by dreaming about the future. Where do you want to see your business in 10 years? Create a clear vision of what you want to accomplish by 2032, and don’t be afraid to think big. Next, break your 10-year goal down to what you want to accomplish in three years that will get you a quarter of your way to your big future goal. From there, break that 3-year goal down by what you need to accomplish in 2022 to stay on track. 

This month, I am offering a complimentary strategic thinking session to help your organization plan for success. Contact me today! Hurry, schedules are filling up!