Do we really need annual plans for work?

As the end of the year draws closer, all the attention at work seems to be shifting to next year. What will the priorities be? What programs will we be executing?

Of course, annual planning is a necessary part of business. You need to know what budgets and resources you will need for the following year, what needs to be in place to support requirements. But it’s plaguing my mind, waking me up at night, it sometimes feels like I am putting together a puzzle without all the pieces.

Back in my marketing days, the planning process was a rigorous affair. Templates to be completed, research reports to be reviewed and planning session after planning session. Communications as a function seems to be a little more laid back, there is a sense that our role is more “reactive” than proactive, so the ability to be able to predict or manage what may be happening seems to be met with somewhat cynical eyebrow raises.

Which has made me reflect on the whole planning process.

In our fast paced, dynamic and digital world, where things are disrupted regularly…is the annual plan becoming obsolete? We are being encouraged to utilise Agile work practices, clear goals with short sprints with iterations…so how can we predict what the outcomes will be?

I’ve also been reading a lot recently about the demise of the annual performance review. Certainly in own company our old annual rating system has been shifted to something less annually focused, goals that are more flexible, quarterly feedback.

Perhaps we need to take the same approach with our planning cycles? Less focus on having a documented signed sealed and delivered annual plan?

That said, there is something really cathartic about taking time out of the daily rat race to do an annual plan. To ask yourself, what has worked this year, what has not? And what can we improve on next year?  To analyse the data, to look outside your bubble to what is happening in the industry around you, what is working for other people?

I don’t agree that communications cannot be planned. We absolutely should know what our priorities are and have a vision for where we are heading. If we don’t have these things in place, how do we know we are steering the ship in the right direction?

So, maybe it is less about the process and more about the output? Taking the time out at the end of the year to reflect on our programs is absolutely necessary. This allows us to then paint the vision and set our intentions moving forward.

However, we don’t need to have every execution, every tactic laid out for 12mths, but we do need to have a sense of where we are going.

In fact, the output should be as simple as possible.

Remember the trend that has been going the last couple of years to set a one word intention for the year instead of a New Years Resolution (because, you know, no one ever actually keeps their resolutions).

Maybe the same thing applies here, you want to end up with a few simple intentions for the year that you can stick up on your desk and refer to throughout the year. Not a lengthy document that sits in the drawer and needs dusting off, same time next year.

This also allows room for the actual specific programs and goals to shift a little. To evolve as you execute, dare I say…iterate… while your overall intention stays intact, is still a guiding light.

So after all the analysis and reviews of the last few weeks…if I DID have to set a one word intention for the focus of our work next year, what would it be? Maybe…SOCIAL (side note: my personal word is GROWTH…not that I follow these silly fads)

If you could sum up your work intention for 2018? What would it be?

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