It almost seems counter-intuitive to talk about planning when you’re trying to finish strong. Successful business leaders, however, know that good quarterly planning is key to finishing well. These same leaders also know that the world doesn’t stop spinning on the last day of the fourth quarter, and if they’re not constantly moving forward, they’re going to be slipping back. So what should you be doing in your fourth quarter planning meeting to help you finish the year strong—and get a great jump on the coming year?
Look Back to Move Forward
Review your previous quarter by looking at:
- Key Financial Outcomes—Look at your projected financial results and compare them to your actual results. If you performed better than expected, do you know why? If you fell short, do you know why? Don’t make excuses or play the name game. Just look at the facts.
- Driving Goals Set and Met—First of all, it’s important to review whether or not you set specific goals and if they were appropriate. If you did set good goals, did you meet them? These goals are different from your financial goals. These are the goals that drive your company (capturing 25% of market share; establishing ourselves as the premiere widget maker in the aerospace industry; zero returns on products, etc.)
- Top Successes—Sometimes leaders forget that they can learn from success! Where did you succeed? Why did you succeed? Don’t forget to celebrate!
- Most Important Things Learned—A lesson that’s really learned is one that results in changed behavior. What did you discover about yourself, your customers, or your market space that resulted (or is resulting) in changes on your part?
What do you need to do in order to finish the year strong? Take time to review:
- Your Key Assumptions—Are the assumptions you made earlier in the year still valid or do you need to revised them?
- Key Challenges to Overcome—Can you identify specific challenges that are impeding your success? Which of them can you affect? What’s your plan (including timeframe)?
- Key Financial Targets—What financial targets (sales/cost savings) do you need to hit this quarter in order to finish the way you projected?
- Driving Goals—Do you need to add to or refine the goals that drive your company for the fourth quarter? Remember that the goals that drive your company encompass more than simple financial goals. Are you becoming the company you want to be?
Be a Theme Player
Remember that the underlying goal of quarterly planning is to focus your team on what they need to be doing. It’s not a gripe session—nor is it a feel-good session. You are rallying the troops for a final push and you want everyone to know what the goals are—and specifically what’s expected of them.
P.S. If you’re looking for more help in planning for a successful future, I’d love to have you join me at the Gazelles Rockefeller Habits/4 Decisions Workshop on September 26, 2012 in Colorado Springs, CO. Come yourself and bring you leadership team. Check out this seminar and sign up today!