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With the multitude of challenges presented to businesses in 2020, starting off 2021 with a comprehensive and realistic annual plan proves to be of paramount importance. While every company begins the new year with great goals, accomplishing them proves to be a bigger challenge. Identifying and prioritizing yearly goals to create a robust yet achievable vision will likely result in a stronger yearly outlook.

1. Learn from the successes and shortcomings of the previous year  

The company needs an understanding of previous goals, weaknesses, and past objectives to understand where the company stands in the new year. Allowing time for introspection at the beginning of crafting a new plan can provide some much-needed context and insight. A strategic review involving all members of the leadership team ensures that the entire company acknowledges competing proprieties from other departments because of the shortcomings from the year before. Having such a transparent and self-aware framework allows for a clear and engaged mindset when crafting the new annual plan. 

2. Plan years in advance to achieve long term goals 

Companies should begin the year by looking at least two years in advance. Forward-thinking allows for constant growth in the company as every year begins as a springboard for the next. Early strategic thinking enables the company to think ahead and utilize time most effectively towards a very large goal.  

Establishing ambitious five-year goals, such as being a leader in the SaaS market, can seem lofty at times but voicing them sets a clear directive for the future.   

3. Breakdown large objectives into small and easily trackable tasks 

Reducing annual plans into quarterly, monthly, weekly plans, and specific tasks pave the path toward efficiency with a goal always within reach. Vague business growth strategies must  join with feasible initiatives that turn into execution.  

robust annual planning session allows the company to achieve multiple targets from day one, ensuring forward momentum.  

Smaller steppingstones and ensuring that everyday tasks keep the plan on track: 

  • Monitor progress of daily task and overarching goals with dashboards 
  • Assign individual team members specific tasks working towards these goals 
  • Meet regularly to adjust the plan and identify problem areas 

Weekly departmental dashboards can be used to track the progress of quarterly priorities, all the way down to specific tasksThese smaller tasks should be assigned to individual team members to ensure that everyone contributes towards a larger picture at a reasonable pace. These practices make it easier to see where goals fail, and plans can be adjusted based on this insight. Meetings should be utilized to review these dashboards among individual teams to promote a sense of accountability and adjustments can be made for the benefit of the team members. The flexibility of a good annual plan leaves room for change to ensure that correct steps can be taken to better achieve the overarching objectives.  

4. Factor in time for unplanned work 

When constructing an annual plan, remember to be realistic, which means setting aside time for delays and unplanned work. This prevents the plan from falling further and further behind due to common delays such as updating software and employee turnover. Leave 20% to 30% open for ad-hoc work and meetings.  

Failing to factor in unplanned time leads to overtime, burnout of employees, and unmet objectives. A flexible and realistic plan allows for time to meet weekly goals regardless if the daily objective was postponed.  

5. Revisit annual plans that fail to show results 

Regardless of the strength of the yearly plan, businesses must reevaluate them if they fail to foster results. Revisiting annual goals for a second time offers a fresh perspective as the team will now be able to pinpoint which tasks fall behind or fail to contribute to the primary goals.  

Asking critical questions regarding specific tasks helps to prioritize:   

  • Why do we do this? 
  • How does this contribute to the annual goals? 
  • Which other tasks take greater importance than this? 

Comparing the answers to these questions to the annual goals will help the company determine if employee time could be better spent elsewhere. Refocusing employee time and efforts will better help the business keep pushing forward. 

6. Communicate the plan with all departments 

Even the most well-crafted plan will be useless if the information only proves accessible to the leadership team. All employees should be made aware of annual goals and the task that they will be responsible for. This creates a sense of ownership and a goaldriven mindset among the entire company. Once executives complete the annual plan, each department leader should share the vision with their team while explaining how the department, and individuals, will work to support it. This also serves as a great way to garner feedback on the plan. Employees are often more aware of the amount of work it takes to complete a task or objective, so they can help prevent the over-allocation of resources and ensures a well-informed plan that everyone actively works towards.