When Planning for 2017 – Start with 2016

In business planning, it’s very common to hear (even from me) – “Start with the end in mind.” And that’s usually true.

But not always. When putting together your 2017 strategic plan for your business you should look to another ancient proverb for guidance – “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

The annual planning process needs to start with a close examination of your current year and answering some key questions:

What did we do well? Where did we fail? What can we do better next year?

These questions should be asked at several levels:

30,000 ft. – Step back and take a global view of 2016 in the context of your company’s vision and purpose. In 2016 did we further our company vision and purpose? Where did we stray from that vision? Based on changes in the market or opportunities that came up during the year do we need to adjust our vision and goals for the company?

On the Ground – Now take a closer view at the strategies you followed in 2016. For example, did you enter any new markets, build a new product, re-organize your company? How did those strategies pan out? What lessons can be learned? If you did a plan for 2016, break it out. Look at the corporate Key Performance Indicators and the goals you set for them in 2016. How close did you get? If you didn’t hit them, why? If you exceeded them, how did you do it? Did you need to make any major changes in your business model to create success or to take advantage of opportunities

In the trenches – Dig into the tactics your company employed during the year in various areas including people, operating systems, customers service. Conduct personnel reviews. Are people in the right places doing the right things? Who left the company? Was it “addition by subtraction” or do you have a hole in your organization that you need to fill? Were your operating systems up to the task? Did you successfully engage your current and past customers?

These questions should be documented, as well as the answers. Employees and managers should be consulted for their input. Talk to your customers, close vendors and outside advisors who can provide valuable insight into your company.

The goal of the strategic planning process boils down to “Where do we want to go and how do we get there?” You are creating a map to success and planning the trip. Every trip requires a starting point as well as a destination. Examining your past year will give you that starting point.

Wishing you continued success,

Matt Burkinshaw

If you have any questions about the contents of this post or need any help figuring out where to start your company’s 2017 Strategic Planning Process, please feel free to contact me.