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5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Company’s Annual Planning Meeting
We’re already cruising through the third quarter and the end of year is almost in sight. As most businesses rev up to finish the back half of the year on a high note, it’s also time to start prepping for your organization’s annual planning meeting in order to get the most value out of your Annual Planning Session.
Annual business planning also gives you the chance to dream big dreams for your company—to imagine what’s possible and to reach for the moon. Annual planning can be a time for celebrating the past year’s wins and getting excited about moving forward to the next level.
Unfortunately for many organizations, annual planning can be a frustrating, stressful effort. Inevitably there are disagreements, pet priorities, various levels of dysfunction, and LONG days of unending discussion. Thank goodness we have the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) to guide us and keep us on track!
At Traction Tools, our Annual Planning Session fuels our entire year. It sets the stage for everything we do for the next 12 months. We follow the EOS Process™ of two-day planning, and we’ve learned a few things along the way that help make annual planning more valuable and more successful. Here are the five steps we’ve discovered to get more value from your annual planning meeting.
1) Plan Ahead
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And if you fail to plan your planning session, you plan your planning to fail…or something like that. Basically, think ahead about your planning session, and don’t wait until the last minute to bring everything together. This is THE planning meeting that will drive your company forward for the next 12 months. Nothing should be half-baked. Consider the following factors:
When you’ll meet
Some companies hold their planning sessions in December so that they can hit the ground running the first week of January. Others wait until all the numbers are in from December and people are rested from the holiday. Whatever you choose, make sure it makes the most sense for your company’s needs.
How long you’ll meet
Just as the EOS Process recommends, we dedicate two full days to do nothing but working on the business. Because we’re also a distributed team that typically comes together in-person only for quarterly and annual planning, we bake in extra time to our travel schedules for meetings, team-building and dinner the night before our sessions, maximizing our time together.
Where you’ll meet
If you’re following the EOS Process purely, you’ve already discovered the advantages of meeting off-site. When you’re offsite, your thinking changes out of the typical patterns you adopt at your workplace. The newness and and unfamiliarity of it allow you to think more creatively. You don’t have the distractions of daily tasks, and it’s more difficult to be interrupted by “quick questions” and “emergencies.”
It’s important to choose your meeting location thoughtfully. Find a setting that is quiet, comfortable, relaxing and free from distractions. Also think about logistics such as whether you’ll have sufficient whiteboard space (and working markers!), whether you need a kitchen or dining space (or meal delivery), commute time, parking availability, etc.
2) Involve the Right People
Determining planning session members can be a tricky thing—especially if office politics is involved, or if you’re a small family-owned business. As the EOS Process dictates, at Traction Tools, the Annual Planning Session is for our leadership team members only. That’s the team that runs the company, and they’re the only people who are making decisions for the company. And if you’re on the leadership team, attendance is mandatory.
Note: sometimes there’s an employee who can provide valuable input into a certain situation or issue but they’re not on the leadership team. In that case, we invite them to provide a write-up that can be shared with the leadership team in advance of the Annual Planning Session.
3) Make It Special
While the Annual Planning Session isn’t exactly a wedding anniversary, it should feel special. After all, you’re setting aside everything just so you can dream about the possibilities of your company’s future. Doesn’t that deserve some special treatment?
Some ideas to consider:
- Find a venue with visual appeal. You might choose a country club or a rustic farmhouse, or even an art gallery.
- Incorporate some fun. A two-day planning session can get pretty intense. Build in some time to let off steam, build relationships, and just relax a bit. We don’t recommend trust falls or blindfolds! From personal experience, we can recommend whirlyball and sunset sails.
- A special gift. It doesn’t have to be big to make a big impact. For example, our leadership team received beautiful Clarity Break™ journals at last years annual session. The journals were a much appreciated gift that served double duty, encouraging us to invest the time in ourselves as well as in the company, by taking a break and looking at the big picture.
4) Look Back
Even when the previous year was great, some companies come out of it feeling a bit beat up. Maybe they were understaffed, or they had to deal with some difficult people issues, or reaching record-breaking numbers took a lot out of the team. If that’s the case, it can be easy to go into an annual planning meeting feeling like the previous year was a failure.
Before we do any planning at our annual session, we follow the EOS Process and take time to each share three business greats, an unexpected business great if we have one, and one personal great. There are always things to celebrate—so we celebrate them! We acknowledge hard work and extra effort, praise the small successes, and highlight the big ones. It’s our policy not to start looking to the future until we can be proud of the past. We love how this process sets the stage for a positive and productive 2-day session!
5) Build in Accountability
Congratulations! Once you’ve completed the annual session you’ve just spent two full days setting your annual goals for the next 12 months. You’ve got your priorities for the new year and you know how you’re going to spend the first quarter completing the Rocks that will get you there.
Unlike companies that spend the majority of their annual planning efforts on planning just at the leadership team level, companies following the EOS Process have a method to follow both to cascade the meeting results to their teams, as well as Rocks which help people stay accountable to the decisions made at the Annual Planning Session.
At Traction Tools, we’ve built our company on making accountability even easier for EOS companies. If you’re running on EOS, our software helps your people stay accountable and makes it easy to track their To-Dos and Rocks along the way to reaching your annual goals.