Looking Back to Look Forward

planning strategy Apr 03, 2017

Life moves fast. You start off the year with high hopes for yourself and your business, and then before you know it April is starting and so many of those goals have fallen by the wayside. Setting up regular check-ins throughout the year helps me stay on track with my goals and/or revise those goals to better fit new situations. I go through my calendar at the beginning of the year and set weekly, monthly, and quarterly review reminders for myself. As we move into the second quarter of the year, now might be a good time for you to review (or institute) your own check-points to make sure you are on track to meet your goals.

What to Review

Quarterly: These checkpoints are for you and your team to get a big picture view of how things have gone over the last three months and plan for the next quarter. This is the time to share data on your progress and feedback on how best to move forward.

  • Goals: Revisit progress on quarterly goals and their alignment to year-long goals. Adjust as necessary to better align your goals with current context and conditions.

  • Professional development: Think through challenges you had in the previous quarter and/or upcoming projects that may require new skills or expertise. Map out the professional development you and your team will need in the coming months to meet those needs. 

  • Meetings: Keeping in touch with people helps you grow your business, stay up-to-date on your industry, and identify future opportunities. Each quarter I make a list of the people I should meet with, prioritizing people who I didn't see in the last quarter.

  • Processes: This is a big one so depending on the size of your organization, you may want to pick 1-2 processes or systems per quarter to focus on. Take some time to think about how you run things and where improvements could be made. This is a crucial place to get feedback from your team(s).

  • Marketing: Take a detailed look at your marketing methods and how they are performing. Look at website analytics, social media traffic, events, and any other marketing methods you use. Think about the return on investment and consider eliminating methods that may not be performing as well as others, or investing in new methods.

  • Finances: Look at your profit and loss from the last quarter. Think carefully about how you might adjust spending and/or increase revenue in order to meet yearly financial goals.

Monthly and weekly: Just as I take my year-long goals and break them down into quarterly goals, I break down my quarterly goals into monthly and weekly goals to make sure they happen.

  • Professional development: Identify the content you need and your vehicle for getting it (e.g., conferences, books, classes, consultants). Then map this out for each month and week, ensuring that it is aligned to your overall goals.

  • Meetings: I like to take my quarterly meeting list and then break it down by month. I try to reach out to people at the beginning of each month and then set dates for follow up if I don't hear back after the first try. People are busy, so it may take a few weeks to get something on the calendar.

  • Marketing: A monthly marketing review will allow you to see how things are performing and also save time compiling a quarterly marketing review all at once. Most marketing methods are about playing a long game, so I wouldn't suggest cutting one after just one month of poor performance, you may need to give some several months, and sometimes over a year, to show a return on investment.

How to Review It

There are many, many protocols out there for reviewing progress on goals or performance on a specific project. One of my recent favorites is the After Action Review (AAR), which my friend Amy Spicer at the Colorado Education Initiative recently re-introduced me to. The AAR was originally developed by the U.S. Army and has since been used by organizations of all sizes and types. The protocol is very simple, you go through the following questions in order. Folks will want to jump to the end, so make sure the facilitator is keeping everyone focused on the question at hand.

  1. What were our intended outcomes?

  2. What were our actual outcomes?

  3. What caused our results?

  4. What should we: scale/sustain, improve, scrap? 

This is a very high level overview of a quarterly/monthly/weekly review. If you have questions feel free to shoot me an email.


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