Where to start when setting your annual plan

Recently, my colleague Claudia shared some practical principles for successfully navigating the annual planning many of us are involved in at this time of yearShe highlights the strain this process can put on teams during an already busy period. 

In order to foster fresh thinking, we crave new insight into our market, consumers and business. However, the constraint on time and resources to deliver this insight can limit ambition and innovation, leading to a tendency to tweak the previous year’s strategy, rather than challenge what is possible.

We’re constantly told that data is the new business currency and that the information we hold is the key to unlocking strategic advantage. It’s true that businesses have never had access to so much data, but we see first-hand the challenges faced in delivering value from this resource. Knowing where to start can be one of the biggest barriers.

Our consulting toolkit brings structure to this task and results in focus and alignment on what’s truly important, before any analysis begins. This is an open and transparent process we run in collaboration with client teams. And one that can subsequently become core to your approach.

1 / Define your destination

Strategic planning frameworks, like a one-page-strategic-plan (OPSP), are a great way to set and monitor objectives for your business unit. However, consider starting with a review of the business model you are currently pursuing. Use a business model canvas as a framework to document your existing strategy, the assumptions that have led to this state and your hypotheses for future growth. Thinking about the core elements of your strategy methodically, like the markets you serve or your value proposition, allows more room for creativity and innovation, ahead of objective setting.

2 / Structure your issue tree

Einstein once said that if he had only one hour to save the world, he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the questions and only five minutes finding the answers. Our issue-tree structure is a tried and tested framework for structuring the key questions you face in strategy setting. It serves as the foundation for efficient and effective research and analysis, and using it can help your stakeholders start the annual planning process on collaborative footing.  

3 / Identify sources of insight

Once you have identified and grouped the questions you must address to define your strategy, the next step should be to identify the sources of information that can help to answer these. It may not be possible to answer all outstanding questions in the time you have available, but knowing what you don’t know is an important part of identifying risks in the plan and forming a backlog for investigation in proceeding months. 

Once the above steps are complete, you’re ready to prioritise and tackle the research and analysis required to inform your strategy in a highly focused, output-led manner. And if at this stage you still feel that internal capacity is a bottleneck to accomplishing this task, then please get in touch to explore how our Strategy and Planning teams could support you. We would love to help.