Annual Planning Tips

It’s that time of year again…time for annual planning season to begin.  If you’re a student of EOS®, you’re already having quarterly sessions to review the past 90 quarter, plan for the next quarter, and learn tools to grow the business and become a better leader.  However, once a year, your quarterly planning session should turn into an annual planning session.  This is the time of the year for you and your leadership team to begin planning next year’s success and building strong team health.  Here are a few tips to help this year’s annual planning be your best ever:

1.       Plan to plan.  Decide when the team wants to hold their annual planning.  Some teams prefer to hold their annual planning as close to the end of the year as possible.  This gets them energized to start the new year strong.  Many teams prefer to hold their annual planning during their third quarter so they can finalize a budget after the planning session. Some teams even prefer to wait until the start of the new year (this is helpful when your business typically has a busy Q4 and a slow Q1).

2.       Don’t rush it.  I always recommend setting aside two days for annual planning (this is your “on” the business time).  On Day 1, we focus on the high-level vision and building team health.  On Day 2, we dive into the details and work on the specific plan to help us achieve our vision.  We leave Day 2 with solid goals (Rocks) for the next 90 days. 

3.       Go offsite.  Even if you hold your quarterly meetings in your office, annual planning is a great opportunity to get offsite.  A change of venue will help you focus, get away from typical office distractions, have more privacy, and be more creative.  I’ve seen teams who flew across the country and others who simply drove across town.  Both options can work well, just make sure the space has plenty of room and plenty of whiteboard real-estate.

4.       Stay overnight and have dinner.  Many teams find it easier to focus if they treat their annual planning session like a retreat (but don’t call it a retreat).  As an added bonus, it’s easy for Day 1’s team health exercises to flow into dinner if the group is staying overnight in the same location. 

5.       Know your numbers.  Be prepared to set financial goals for the next quarter, year, and three-year period during the annual session.  For teams who meet later in year, many have completed a first draft of next year’s budget.  Other teams who meet for their annual planning a little earlier in the year use the projections to go back and put the first draft of the budget together.

6.       Be vulnerable.  While I promise no “trust falls” or singing Kumbaya around a campfire, we’ll spend time working on team health/trust.  I’ve found that teams move farther, faster when they’re open and honest with each other.

7.       Have a good time.  To reward your team for two days of top-notch work, incorporate some fun.  I’ve seen teams spend an extra day (or two) with golf outings, trips to the beach, or a cruise.  Incorporating some fun or holding the planning session in a memorable location will make it easier to get buy-in for next year’s planning session.

What do you do after a successful annual planning session?  Go crush those yearly goals and quarterly Rocks!