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Creating a Compelling Annual Plan

In a recent coaching conversation, the CEO of a middle market company said, “I look forward to Labor Day; it creates a mental shift in our organization as we begin to focus on finishing the current year and planning for next year.” This seems to be a common sentiment among senior leaders—the fall Is when annual planning seems most natural. So, how are you setting your team up for a successful 2024 annual planning session? Here are three questions to answer in creating a compelling plan:

Does your plan have a strong outside-in perspective?

One of the biggest short comings in most annual plans is that they are built from an inside-out perspective. Everyone shows up at the annual planning session to talk about what their team needs, how their team wants to function, and what they believe others in the company should be doing to be more effective. Rarely do planning team members start the conversation by talking about what customers need, how the market is changing, or what the competition is doing to make it easier for customers to buy. As you prepare for your annual planning session, set up your agenda to start with outside data, create initiatives that will address what the data tell you, and test the strength of your final plan against the outside data you have today.  

Have you included people, outside of the planning team, in building the plan?

An annual plan should not be something created by the senior team and handed “down” to the organization with the hope that team members will take the right actions. For a plan to be compelling, people across the organization should be able to give a resounding yes to the following questions:

  1. I understand our team’s vision and purpose.
  2. To achieve our vision, we have created a well-built plan with realistic goals.
  3. I am energized when I explain our plan and goals to others.
  4. Our plan is aligned to our customer’s wants and needs.         

One of the best ways to ensure the team can answer these questions positively is to engage them in building the plan. While not every person in the organization can be in the room for the planning discussion, you can take steps to assure their input is heard. Through surveys, roundtable discussions, and team meetings, planning team members can gather input from a broad range of employees and customers to expand the thinking considered in the planning session. When people see their ideas in the final plan, believe they matter in executing the plan, and see the plan as being valuable for customers, they are more compelled to take positive action in delivering on the plan.

Are your teams set up for success in working together to deliver the promises in the plan?

When a plan is compelling, teams across the organization are working together to achieve the desired outcomes. If departments can work on their own, in silos, to achieve the plan, it means you have a function plan. To overcome this challenge, ensure that every initiative in your plan involves teams of teams working together to achieve the outcomes. Items that only impact one area of the organization need to be part of departmental plans, not your organization level plan.  

By addressing these three questions in preparing for your annual planning session you will raise the expectations for your team, create a compelling plan that all team members can rally around, and keep your focus on growing externally—where you gain revenue and market growth—rather than focusing internally— which only grows your expenses.

To learn more about ways you can build leadership team alignment and create compelling plans, call Good Leadership today to set up a What’s Possible Conversation.

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