Late fall is the time many CEOs and Executive Directors bring together their teams to create plans and priorities for the coming year. Team leaders, key employees, outside experts, investors and even key partners or customers may be invited to contribute. Even if the people and meeting place are local, these events have real expenses in time and money. But the biggest costs come if the planning session fails, and the new fiscal year is fraught with missed sales targets, over-budget spending and team frustration.
So the stakes are high for this important meeting. But in my experience the biggest reason that planning sessions fail is due to something that is completely in the control of the leader: setting clear goals for the planning session. Often meeting goals are too nebulous or intangible to create a meaningful destination. General “growth” or even a 20% revenue increase is no more than an aspiration – and even then, not an inspiring one for the rest of the team. Planning meeting goals need to be created with time and purpose to get at the real core of what needs to be accomplished. Here are questions that are useful in guiding the process:
- What are the top problems or issues you need to address in the coming year?
- What are the one to three metrics on which success depends? They may be the few numbers that are important to your investors, or milestones that you committed to partners. Or maybe your spending is out of control or constrained cash flow is slowing down your reaction to opportunity. Focus on the few big numbers by which to measure real progress.
- What do you want to walk out if the room with? If your goal is brainstorming, you will want to narrow down the result to a prioritized list. If you have staff plans prepared, your desired output may be to redistribute projects so the team is not overly crammed in one month. Think about a tangible chart or list or other receptacle that would be a useful outcome for your meeting.
- How do you want the members to feel? Does each person need to feel heard? Do you need to motivate for the upcoming year? Do you need to support or foster innovation? If you had a fly on the wall after the meeting what would you like to hear?
After setting initial meeting goals consider letting them percolate or requesting reactions from other people who get the vision of your company. Then you are ready to assemble the invite list for your planning event.