Get ready for business planning season

Autumn. You can feel it: the mornings are a little darker, the evenings are a little shorter, and when the sun goes down, there is a chill in the air. Yes, summer is behind us.

For most businesses, that means that business planning season is almost upon us.

Business planning season is that time of the year when most businesses consider their financial forecasts and plans for the next year (or longer). This allows for departmental budgets to be set and financing to be agreed. It's a crucial time of year because if you get it wrong during business planning, you'll be struggling to get the financing and resources you need to deliver your plans as next year unfolds.

In practice, that often drives the timing of the annual strategy review.

The time immediately before business planning season may be the best time to ensure your strategy is clear, compelling and up-to-date. Clear, so that you will know exactly what you'll need to do to take the best advantage of the opportunities ahead of you, whilst avoiding all of the risks. Compelling, so that you'll be able to convince your colleagues, your boss, and/or your investors why they should fund your plans. And up-to-date, so that you don't realise too late that there were crucial insights that you did not, but could have taken into account.

But, what is it about the earth's position relative to the sun that would cause you to change your business strategy?

Even if you're a very seasonal business - like an ice-cream van - you've known about the changing of the seasons all along. Nothing has changed!

On the other hand, most changes that might actually have a real impact on your strategy pay little attention to the time of year. These include advances in technology, big moves by competitors, changes in customer preferences, new regulations, a global pandemic, etc. They come along on their own schedule.

If you finalise your strategy in January, and one of these big change events happens in February, would you wait another 11 months to adjust your strategy in response? Or would you want to adapt your strategy almost immediately?

Strategists have long argued that:

  1. strategy should be used to shape budgets,
    but that
  2. the budgeting process should not determine how or when we set strategy.

This is putting the cart before the proverbial horse.

However, we all know that the problem persists in many organisations. It is deeply ingrained into the way they operate.

So it is likely that you will be thinking of at least reviewing your strategy early in the planning season process.

If you've been using a more continuous and adaptive strategy development and execution process of the type I'd advocate, and as supported by StratNavApp.com, then this should be a relatively simple exercise. You just need to confirm that everyone is comfortable that the strategy is up to date and fit for purpose.

If you haven't, then the process usually involves digging out the strategy from last year, spending a brief moment reflecting on how much has changed since then, how differently things turned out than planned and how little actual progress was made, before starting the process all over again. All while promising yourself that this year it will be different.

Don't worry - we've all been there.

If you want next year to be different, here are some things you can do:

  1. Build a balanced strategic scorecard with KPIs that show progress against all of your strategic goals.

  2. Make sure you have processes and responsibilities in place to update each KPI on that scorecard at least once a month.

  3. Review the results as a team at least once a month.

  4. Break your change initiatives into the smallest chunks possible which can still impact those KPIs. Then prioritise and sequence them.

  5. Review progress against those change initiatives at your same monthly meeting. Track not only whether you're delivering those change initiatives, but more importantly, whether delivering them is impacting the KPIs in the right direction. If they're not, don't just keep going. Step back and work out why your strategy is not working and what you need to do to adjust it.

  6. Assign someone to each strategic insight on which your strategy is based. Charge them with refreshing the underlying data and re-checking the assumptions on a regular basis and updating the group as soon as something changes. Review and confirm or adapt your strategy every time something does.

StratNavApp.com is designed to help you do all of the above (and more). In fact, will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. So please feel free to give it a try if you haven't already.

What's more, its collaborative features allow you to work with your team to ensure you get all of their input during the process, as well as their buy-in and commitment to the result.

The dynamic nature of StratNavApp.com makes it easier to ensure your strategy is up-to-date and responding to changes in your business and environment throughout the year. However, even if you managed to do so, this period before the business planning season is the best time to review, remind and recommit yourself to your strategy.

The sooner you start, the more time you'll have to ensure you get it right. Why not log in to StratNavApp right now and get started? If you've not been for a while, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the improvements we continue to make on a regular basis.


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