Quarterly Planning Explained & Examples
We all know that part of running a successful business involves holding quarterly strategy meetings with key executives and decision makers of your company. Despite obviously being held every three months, what exactly does a good quarterly plan include? How should these meetings be conducted and what outcomes should you expect?
In today’s blog, we’re explaining the dos and don’ts of quarterly planning.
WHAT IS QUARTERLY PLANNING?
Put simply, quarterly planning is a strategy meeting held every quarter, that is, once every three months. It’s a way business owners and key executives break the annual strategy down into smaller parts and evaluate their progress against long-standing goals and objectives.
These meetings are used to set new goals, establish metrics, review the previous quarter’s achievements and chart projected growth.
WHY IS QUARTERLY PLANNING IMPORTANT?
Quarterly planning makes it easy to track long-term goals over a shorter time period. It’s also a good idea if you have shorter-term plans in progress that need to be checked on regularly.
Projects that blow out on time or budget need to be monitored and resources reallocated as soon as things start heading south. You’re able to save time and money if you’re able to readjust before things spiral out of control. Instead of waiting 12 months to go back over the numbers for the previous year, it makes way more sense to break down evaluation and revision of goals into shorter time frames.
Reviewing the past quarter will also take less time to do than 12 months over the past year.
And finally, quarterly planning also gives team members structured guidance without too much freedom of time, meaning less time to procrastinate on big-picture projects.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A QUARTERLY PLAN?
The components of a quarterly plan can vary based on a business's structure, industry and a whole host of other factors. But here are 10 things every quarterly planning meeting should include.
1. REVIEW THE PREVIOUS QUARTER
Before you can even think about planning for the next three months, you have to take a look back at the quarter you’ve just completed. Reviewing and analyzing the last 90 days is the only way to accurately project and predict business needs and potential pitfalls for the coming 90 days.
Assess any issues that may have arisen in the past quarter to prevent them in the future. Stay positive by offering solutions for addressing the issues without blaming or reprimanding individuals for poor performance.
Detail your wins, losses and which goals were not achieved. Make note of which strategies worked and which processes need fine-tuning.
This is a good time to recognize and reward employees and departments for performing well to encourage and inspire teams.
2. 3 FOCUS AREAS FOR THE NEXT QUARTER
Your team’s priorities should never be spread too thin. Identify three focus areas for the business to spotlight during the next quarter. These could be in areas or departments like customer relations, product design, financial organization or marketing.
While taking care of the day-to-day operations is obviously important, establishing defined focus areas will help you scale and develop your operations.
3. OUTLINE GOALS AND METRICS FOR SUCCESS
Upon deciding your areas of focus, create particular goals to guide your workflow for the quarter. Set metrics and expectations that make success definitive and clear for everyone. For example, you might set an objective to increase your customer conversion rate by 10% this quarter. You can also create action steps and project phases to achieve success.
4. RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES
While we all want success for our business, no strategy or plan comes without a chance of failure. For that reason, each of your goals should be scrutinized for both risk and opportunity.
Quarterly planning should include a summary of both key risks and opportunities against every major decision. The information presented should be honest, transparent and without finger-pointing. If your team or department isn’t likely to hit targets, call it out so the business can recalibrate and avoid any hiccups down the road.
This helps business leaders understand how real-world results could vary against the plan and allows the business to take actions to mitigate risks or capitalize on any potential opportunities.
5. COMPANY GOALS
Your quarterly planning meeting should include a discussion around larger goals that impact your entire company, not just your specific team. Too often we can get tunnel vision as business owners and executives – only really caring about our department or team, but at the end of the day, it’s important to see how your team’s efforts fit into the company, and how you’re contributing to the overall mission. This can help center the meeting on your company's foundational purpose and inspire employees to approach the new quarter with enthusiasm. Reminding teams of the reason the company exists can be a way to refresh their passion for the work they do.
6. STRETCH GOALS
The funny thing about goals is, you want to make them challenging enough that you have to work had for them, but at the same time, not too hard that they’re impossibly out of reach.
This is where stretch goals come into play. Stretch goals are essentially a standard goal stretched just that little more to inspire motivation.
Let’s say the marketing team has a target of 100 published blogs for the calendar month. A stretch goal would push this to 110 and count on the subtle pressure to drive hard work and ambition.
7. CUSTOMER FEEDBACK
One of the key things to focus on when planning quarterly goals is how your goals affect the most important members of your business: your customers. KPI’s and internal numbers are one thing, but you need to prioritize the happiness of the people paying your bills.
Spend time focusing on your customer’s experience, and whether you were successful in gaining repeat customers. While new customers are great, it does really say something about your level of customer service when you see repeat orders and brand loyalty.
If there was a particular promotion that got great engagement over the last three months, you’ll know which of your marketing strategies is working for the next quarter. If you start receiving more negative reviews on your site page after an ingredient was changed in one of your products, take notice! Listen to your customers; they’ll tell you exactly what goals you need to be focusing on.
8. BUDGET AND RESOURCING
Lofty ambition serves no-one if we don’t have the money or resources to make it a reality. A good quarterly plan should have all projects expertly costed and all resources allocated efficiently. Your budgeting should also look at the previous quarter to see if former targets and budgets were adhered to.
Budgeting should also include any planned investment, acquisitions and revenue projections.
9. TIMELINES, SCHEDULES AND DEADLINES
A goal without a deadline is a “some day dream”. Your quarterly planning should include clear timelines and phases for the quarter, with precise team schedules and deadlines for each project.
A great way to keep everyone on the same page is through either project management software or by creating and maintaining a shared calendar that outlines all important dates and deadlines for the company. Make sure the priorities for each task is highlighted clearly to ensure teams can complete tasks in the right order.
10. DEFINE TEAM ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITES
While everyone should already understand what they do in their job, specific roles and responsibilities around certain tasks should be made clear.
Document this quarter's tasks and responsibilities for team members and make sure everyone understands them. This prevents the blame game at next quarter’s meeting if things haven’t gone so well.
By making sure these 10 items are covered off in your quarterly planning meetings, you can be assured that your teams are on the same page and they’re all working towards scaling your business to success.
If you’re looking for help planning and strategizing for the future, the right advice is priceless. Contact us today and we can go from there.
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