I’m traditionally pretty particular about doing annual planning every year. I prioritize it heavily because it’s the one time each year when we take a step back and go over our plans for the following year. It includes department-level brainstorming and planning sessions that roll up into full-blown presentations to the C-Suite.
I think they’re incredibly helpful and good for a team, and we’ll continue to do them.
Yet, when I think back to how often our plans from several months prior ever really come to fruition—or, for that matter, how many of those plans I ever even remember, as little as three months later—it’s very few of them. This fact has become increasingly evident to me in the last year, but I hadn’t found a model or tool to improve on it, until recently.
Quarterly Instead of Yearly
We just held our first day-long “quarterly reset” meeting and the results and outcomes were phenomenal. So phenomenal that I can tell you, with confidence, that they’ll have far more impact on our work than annual planning ever has. Our format was largely based on Gino Wickman’s Traction and you can see our meeting agenda here, but here’s what I think was so special about it:
1) Each individual on the team shared their personal and business highlights.
We started the meeting hearing about everyone’s high points for the last three months. It’s a great way to understand what’s going on in people’s lives, to feel like we’re all humans, first and foremost, and to celebrate their individual business accomplishments from the last quarter.
2) Everyone shared what they expected out of the day.
Taking an entire day together means we want to all come out the other side of it feeling like we’ve accomplished what we expected to accomplish and that we’re not wasting a day of work. Plus, hearing this is a great way I can make sure our agenda is going to meet everyone’s expectations or whether I need to communicate something different about the intentions of our time together.
3) The team shared what they thought was wrong with the business.
This might have been the most incredible part of the whole day, truly. Not only did it open up one of the best bonding sessions we’ve had as a team, in the history of the business, but I think it also left people with a true sense of ownership in and contribution to the business.
For context, I typically ask the team areas where they think the company might need to improve every few weeks. That’s been great, but I still only ever hear one or two things at a time. When we gave space for this in our quarterly meeting, though, it gave everyone a safe container to openly share what they feel needs attention. Plus, making it a group discussion meant that everyone got to hear everyone else’s thoughts, which either allowed them to add to those ideas or helped others remember additional items they might want to address. The result? We heard no fewer than 30 different items that our company might need to focus on in the coming months, and it’s an incredible list for us to start working away at.
4) We reviewed our company vision, values, manifesto, and long-term plans.
Having quarterly meetings means we now get to reiterate our company values and the bigger vision for why we do what we do, more often than in a yearly meeting. It’s a great way to set the tone for what comes next (discussion of shorter-term goals and individual “rocks”) and helps the team relate what they’re doing to the much larger, more important vision for where we want to be down the road. It also helps leadership make sure that more major questions about our vision don’t need to be addressed and that the whole team is on the same page—basically, that everyone is on board and we’re rowing in one, common direction.
5) We reviewed our company goals from the previous quarter.
Last quarter, we wrote out what we set to accomplish over the next few months as a team—the absolute most important things that had to get done, across the business. While we review our individual goals every week, this was the first time we went back to look at the company goals we set out and to review how we actually did. This time allowed us to see where we excelled and areas where we might have overshot.
6) We made our plans for the next quarter.
Once all of this foundation was laid, each person on the team gave their suggested 3-7 top priorities, for themselves, for the next 90 days. Once each person presented their priorities to us, we had a lot of back-and-forth conversation to flesh out any questions anyone had around where they should focus in the next quarter. In this, people get to own what they’re up to, but the entire team also gets on the same page with what their coworkers will be focusing on. Again, it’s a great way to build buy-in, team camaraderie, and transparency across business lines. Plus, it especially helped eliminate the idea that “everything is important” and forced us to choose only the most essential things for each of us.
Now, two weeks into the quarter, we’re starting off with a clear roadmap and reminder for what the next 90 days will be like, allowing us to hit the ground running.