I love quarterly planning time. It’s my favourite time of year. And luckily for me, it comes four times a year!
Generally, quarterly planning involves two components:
In looking back at the previous quarter, you and your leadership team should ask:
Use your quarterly goals and building blocks as a guide. Which did you achieve? Where did you fall short? What lessons were learned that you can apply going forward, into next quarter and beyond?
Be sure to celebrate successes and, on the flip side, course correct in areas that underperformed in the quarter.
Looking back at the prior quarter also allows you to see just how far your business has come—how much you’ve accomplished—over the last 90 days. There is a tendency to underestimate or underappreciate our accomplishments if we don’t consciously take note of them. Taking time out—usually a half-day or a full-day, depending on the size of your business and leadership team—to engage in quarterly planning helps you shine a light on your accomplishments so that you don’t just skip past them. It energizes you for the quarter to come. And it reminds you what all the hard work is for.
For example, I was facilitating a quarterly planning session with a client recently and they were feeling just okay about the quarter that was. But as we dug into it, they realized they had achieved over 80% of everything they had set out to. Yes, there were a couple of items that needed to be pushed into the next quarter, but they had moved the needle on their business in a big way, and going through the process helped them realize that when they may not have otherwise.
Oh, and they exceeded their quarterly profit goal by a whopping 112%! Full disclosure: that was due in part by over estimating expenses when setting the goal. But still – they had more revenue than expected in the quarter and much fewer expenses, which led to a big win in the profit department. I always love it when a business owner I’m working with can put a huge checkmark next to their profit goal at the end of a quarter.
Another client realized when looking back at last quarter that it was their non-financial goals about creating a positive impact in their community that actually drove them to achieve and exceed their profit goals. (Look for an upcoming article about the connection between purpose and profit.)
After your team debriefs and analyzes the quarter that was, the next step is to plan for the quarter ahead. It’s helpful to use the same framework each quarter for your planning, so you’re not reinventing the wheel every 90 days. The framework I use with the majority of my clients is called the Quarterly Picture. It’s simple but powerful. You can see what it looks like here.
Here’s the process we follow to complete the Quarterly Picture:
Engaging in a structured quarterly planning process four times per year keeps your team focused on the business’ annual priorities, encourages necessary course corrections, and offers an objective yardstick of your accomplishments.
Most importantly, it sets your business up for the best chance to succeed. It helps you achieve more that you thought you could, and in a manner that doesn’t exhaust resources and morale. A commitment to quarterly planning is a commitment to sustainable, enjoyable growth for your business.