Annual planning 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 with the next phase of your business strategy.
Unfortunately, annual planning can also be a frustrating, stressful time. There might be disagreements, pet priorities, and LONG days of unending, exhausting discussion.
At Bloom Growth, our Annual Planning Session fuels our entire year. It sets the stage for everything we do for the next 12 months. We schedule two full day planning, and we’ve learned a few things along the way that help make annual planning valuable, successful, and fun. Here are some tips and tricks on how to capitalize on your annual planning and enjoy yourself in the process.
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, 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 year. Nothing should be half-baked.
Consider the following questions when you’re planning ahead:
When will your annual planning meeting be?
Some companies hold their planning sessions in December so that they can hit the ground running in January. Others wait until after all the numbers are in from December. Whatever you choose, make sure it makes the most sense for your company’s needs.
How long will your meeting be?
Dedicate at least a full day to your annual planning meeting. This allows you to break your meetings up, leaving space for important conversations to be fully discussed.
If you’re a remote team like us, and your team usually only comes together in-person for quarterly and annual planning, bake in extra time into your travel schedules for meetings, team-building, and dinner the night before your sessions to maximize your time together. This is a great opportunity for team-building and we do it every chance we get!
Where will the meeting be?
There can be plenty of advantages to meeting off-site. The newness and unfamiliarity of your surroundings make it easier to think outside the box, putting you in a great place for creative problem-solving.
It’s important to choose your meeting location thoughtfully. Find a setting that is quiet, comfortable, relaxing, and free from distractions.
Think about logistics—will you have sufficient whiteboard space (and working markers)? Do you need a kitchen or dining space? What will everyone’s commute time be? Is there parking available? Answers to these questions will help you determine the location of your next annual planning meeting.
2. Involve the right people
Deciding who should attend the planning session can get tricky—especially if office politics get involved. At Bloom, the session is for our leadership team members only. And if you’re on the leadership team, attendance is mandatory.
Note: When an employee (or employees) has valuable input into a specific situation or issue, but they’re not on the leadership team, we invite them to provide a write-up that can be shared with the leadership team in advance of the session.
3. Make the meeting special special
Annual planning meetings are exciting and it should feel special! After all, you get to hang out with a great team, making big, creative decisions that will shape the future of your organization.
Some ideas to consider to add some “oomph” to the session:
- Find a venue with visual appeal. You might choose a country club, 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 relax a bit. 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 year’s 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.
4. Be proud of the previous year
Even if the previous year was great for your company, you might come out of it feeling a bit beat up or exhausted. If that’s the case, it can be easy to go into an annual planning feeling like the last year was a failure.
Before we do any planning at our annual session, we like to take time to share a few things. Three great things from the business and one great thing from our personal lives. There are always things to celebrate—so we celebrate them! This process sets the stage for a positive and productive session while letting us acknowledge hard work and extra effort.
5. Build in accountability
Any planning session will inevitably result in some serious to-do lists. You can get a head start on those tasks by cascading the meeting results to their teams, as well as creating 90-day goals which help people stay accountable to the decisions made at the planning meeting.
Make accountability that much easier to track with Bloom Growth, a comprehensive virtual and in-person meeting tool. With build-in to-do lists, goal tracking, and collaborative meeting agendas, conquering the next year has never been more streamlined.
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