Q4 is known for the frenetic pace that inevitably comes with the final push to meet (and exceed!) annual goals. Amidst the frenzy, we need to pull ourselves out of the weeds of the current plan to focus on creating next year’s plan. Short on time, many leaders short-change the planning process, committing a few cardinal sins that perpetuate the planning-to-scrambling cycle.
Here are 3 common mistakes you’ll want to avoid this year:
1. Skipping a Strategic Assessment
There’s always a temptation to dive right into financials. Instead, kick off the planning process by taking the time to complete an honest, strategic assessment of the state of the business. From an internal perspective, ask yourselves what you excelled and failed at over the last year. Be sure to dig into the “whys” behind those answers. Balance this introspective review with an external assessment, including a competitive analysis. When we spend too much time navel-gazing we can miss the fact that our competitive space has completely changed. Consider bringing in outside perspectives to help the leadership team truly understand the current opportunity.
2. Failing to Translate the Plan into Meaningful Goals
Often, something gets lost in the critical translation of annual plans to team goals. Whether your goal style is SMART or FAST, or some combination thereof, the key is to ensure you’re not structuring goals that end up working against you.
Make sure your goals support your strategic initiatives, your financial targets and your cultural values. Trying to promote cross-team collaboration? Make sure shortened project timelines aren’t the only metric the team is goaled on.
3. Setting It and Forgetting It
Annual planning, done. Yearly team goals, finalized. Annual goal reviews, in the system. Sound familiar? To ensure the company is executing effectively against its goals you need a continuous feedback cycle, not an annual review process. If quarterly goals aren’t in your playbook, it may be time to add them. Using quarterly OKRs creates a clear roadmap to attaining annual goals. Employees can focus on shorter term, impactful responsibilities while understanding how what they’re doing right now moves the company closer to overall success. It also provides flexibility to adjust as changes develop during the year.
The planning process is really about marrying strategy and execution, and effectively balancing the two is a unique skill that few leaders possess. Adjusting your planning process to incorporate both elements ensures the organization understands what needs to be done to reach next year’s goals while inspiring them to do it.