The 90-Day Planning cycle

Planning a full year ahead can be tortuous if you get too detailed. I remember when I worked in a large company in the 90’s and held responsibility for a lot of the planning. I dreaded the end of the financial year when it had to be done. It was so detailed that by the time everyone had their say, it was usually 6 weeks into the year that the plan covered! You’d think that after all that time and effort it would be a great plan. And generally it was... but about 4-6 months into the year we might, for example, have gained a couple of key customers, lost a major supplier, the market had changed in some way, and we knew the plan needed rewriting. 

As I started working across a number of different companies it was easier to spot patterns and see the bigger picture. I was fortunate to meet Verne Harnish when he presented at our annual conference and I read his book “The Rockefeller Habits”. This now forms the basis of how we work with all our clients in a cycle of 90-day plans, and it works!

So here’s the secret:
You need to know what you want to achieve in the longer term (3-5 years ideally, but 1 year will do), but planning a whole year in detail is a waste of time. Too much changes during a year, and it takes too long to plan a whole year in detail anyway. So armed with long-term goals, take one day each quarter to work on a plan for the next quarter.

In your planning day, remind yourself of the 12 month goals and think which parts you could work on in the coming quarter. Shortlist about ten possible goals, then narrow it down to five. When choosing five goals, ensure that at least half of the goals focus on making money. The goals like staff training or developing systems are necessary, but make sure every quarter you keep some focus on increasing profit! Once you have the five goals, make sure each one of them is SMART (basically - specific and measurable with definite time scales). Then break down each goal into a series of the steps that will be needed to implement them.

For each step assign one person who will be responsible and a completion date. The goals should be for the whole organisation to work on during the coming quarter, not just what the senior team focus on. So you’ll need to roll them out to all levels of management/staff. Cascade the goals and their achievement down the organisation. And if that organisation is one person... this process still works, but the cascading process is pretty simple! Be sure that the whole company is focused on the 90 day goals.

Repeat this process - setting aside a day to plan prior to the start of a quarter - and by the end of one year doing that you’ll see that your business has gone further and faster than ever before! Failing to set aside a full day is where most businesses go wrong before they even start. If they plan at all, they cram it into a couple of hours or avoid involving everyone that needs to be there. This is why every 90 days we run a workshop.

We get about 50+ business owners and senior staff in a room then lock the door and don’t let them out until they have a 90-day plan! (I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea). Put YOUR full day of planning in your calendar now and get into the quarterly habit. To book your place at our next 90 day GrowthCLUB session - click here!  

If you’ve found this blog useful, why not subscribe to our monthly newsletter for more – click here!

By: Rob Pickering