The Annual Planning Process

Coming into year-end, everyone is thinking about “the plan.” No matter how big our organizations are, we all need a handful of key items to focus on. Fred Wilson, who sees a lot of business plans from his seat as a venture investor, shares some basics in his post “Priorities.” Here are a few takeaways (and further interpretations):
  1. Focus on two or three big things. Four can work, but once we get to five it’s hard to sustain progress in any of them.
  2. Saying yes to two or three means saying no to others. “Saying no to things that you really want to do is a telltale sign of a good planning process. Saying yes to too many things is a telltale sign of a poor planning process.”
  3. Balance must-do and big-new. Identify which things are must-do that the business can’t put off any longer, and at least one big-new effort that will move the business forward. 
What we choose to focus on turns into the story we tell our coworkers about our businesses and ultimately the message we communicate to our clients about how we operate. The less clear the priorities, the harder it will be to execute as people will struggle to understand what matters and why. The clearer the priorities, the easier it will be to execute. 
By balancing must-do and big-new, we also keep the plan fresh from year to year. Annual plans are not “one year only” plans. They balance a sense of urgency with where we are going. Our businesses and industries change over time. Our annual plans help to affirm our awareness of what’s going on at all different scales, the mission we are on, and an acceptance of the necessary adaptations we must make to survive and succeed. 

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