Happy New Year! Many are heading into 2019 executing annual plans created last year. Sometimes it can be hard to make planning a priority. Planning gets pushed and pushed and pushed, and the next thing you know the year you were supposed to be planning for is upon you. Don’t let being late be and excuse to brush off planning all together. It’s not too late to set a plan for the year, and here are some tips on making your plan successful.
Wrap up 2018
Your first step in planning for 2019 is to wrap up 2018. Take care of any loose ends from last year. Go back and look at the goals and milestones you set and see how you did. What worked, what didn’t, what should you do more of or less of in the coming year? What mistakes were made and what can you learn from them? Remember to ask why. Why did we hit or not hit our goals? Why did we make mistakes? Understanding the why is critical to leveraging your experiences last year to a successful plan for the coming year.
Plan First, Budget Second
When you’ve finished wrapping 2018, you’re ready to lay out the slate for 2019. Planning is about strategy, innovation and vision. These are best determined with as little constraint as possible. Budgeting follows. Don’t stifle your vision by wondering how it will be funded or how much budget needs to be allocated to specific departments to meet a specific milestone or goal. Set your objectives, goals and milestones first. Then decide how your budget will overlay the plan. Planning first allows you to get to the true vision and strategy your organization needs to execute, the real goals you want to achieve. Budgeting is often short-term focused and as a result tends to work against growth and innovation. Focus the organization on the relevant facts and issues for analysis and action. Budgeting can then be more of an exercise of priority rather than a roadblock.
It’s Not a Plan Unless It’s Integrated
Your 2019 plan cannot just be a collection of goals and milestones from various departments within your organization. Plans from each group will seem appropriate when viewed independently but may not fit well within the organization as a whole. Rather than cobbling together plans from each functional area, there should be some over-arching company-wide vision or set of goals and objectives. The overall goals should cascade down to each functional area within the company. Functional areas need their own plan and objectives that are specific to each unit, but they need to ladder-up to the overall strategic plan at the highest levels.
Tools for the Planning Process
There are lots of templates and services available to help with the planning process. Certainly, nothing is required to start your plan. You may be able to organically develop your plan without leveraging any outside materials. There are some common, free methods to help you get started, here are just a few.
- SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats): a SWOT matrix should help you see some of the areas your plan needs to address and the resources you have or will need to make it happen.
- SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound): viewing your goals and milestones through the SMART lens keeps your plan grounded in reality and ensures you can track your progress towards the objectives you decide on.
- People, Process and Technology: think about your objectives with these areas in mind, it’s likely achieving your goals will rely on a combination of these three things.
Communication is Key
When you have a final plan, communicating it to the employees that will make it happen may be the most important step. Just as important as the plan itself is the plan for how you will inform your teams of the goals for 2019, the milestones that need to be hit to achieve those goals, and why those goals fit the vision of your organization. You may have many different audiences that need to understand the plan. The board, the staff, partners and vendors, everyone you work with needs to understand the goals for the year and what role they play in achieving them. When in doubt, keep it simple, communicate one high-level plan to everyone in the company.
Plan to Re-plan
It’s more important to get your plan done than to have it 100% right. Make it a priority to adjust your plan throughout the year based on what’s happening. The process of planning can be just as valuable as the end-product itself. Annual planning, done well, can set the overall direction of your organization, empower your teams and deliver clear leadership.