Making An Effective Annual Plan

What Is An Annual Plan

Quarter four is a great time to reflect and celebrate our successes in the past year. I am sure, no matter what the climate has been, there will be something you and your business should be proud of over the previous three quarters. Of course, in business, nothing ever stays the same and now we must look to the future. What is the next success, the next improvement project, the next big win. Ultimately, what is the plan. We can outline this with, you guessed it, an annual plan.

An annual plan takes into consideration all of these questions and pulls it together into next years strategy document. It will generally include:

  • This years financials, outlooks to year end and bridging financials to the end of next year.
  • Details around these bridging financials and the action plan to get there, with a sales focus.
  • Marketing, Product and People strategy for the next year.
  • Major projects expected within the business.

This is all great information, but in my opinion, the real key to a truly successful annual plan document is how many people read it,  add to it, discuss it and believe in it. Here’s why.

Setting The Vision

The job of any great leader is, at its core, very simple. It is to ensure the team around them have the tools and focus to deliver the next business success. A great leader facilitates progress. Correct? That focus comes from defining where we are today (financials for the end of the year, structure etc.) where we want to get to tomorrow (next year end financials, major project results etc.) and how we are going to get there – this is the where an annual plan comes into its own.

An annual plan shouldn’t be a document produced solely for the management team to refer to. It should be a living document that employees can use to understand and see how they are needed to deliver these next steps.

If we make our teams feel part of the future and that their involvement is needed, we create a sense of belonging and obligation to delivering these results.

The Annual Plan is created to set the vision, the targets and outline the vehicles for delivering the next phase of business iteration. It is a living, breathing document that should be understood, embraced and discussed by all members of the business.

Areas We Will Focus On

If you are looking for a post that outlines, “what to include in a strategy planning document” – this mini series isn’t for you. You can check out a list of items to include in a strategy document from Forbes.  Whilst undoubtedly interesting and certainly useful, I personally don’t agree that every element needs to be in every strategy document. After all, we need to articulate this vision across all levels within our business. As always, keeping complex ideas as simple and concise as possible is a winner here. We can save the trudging strategy speak and executables for each individual project, if we really must have them.

In this series, the focus is on how to make this document accessible and relatable. It will cover:

The Takeaway

If your annual plan has been a secret of the boardroom, compiled in darkened rooms alongside closed door conversations, then it probably hasn’t landed well. Creating a disconnect between certain levels of the business that can manifest in micromanagement of projects and individuals.

Of course, some conversations may need to be had and certain elements omitted, but by and large, an annual plan should be something celebrated and delivered to your wider teams. Preferably, including them in the preparation.