How To Land An Annual Plan With Your Team - Part Two

James Adams

Who Can Execute A Plan?
The theme that has been running through this whole series is, that any management team cannot deliver any plan without a team to support you. A team to put in the time and work through the hard yards alongside each other. This post is no different.

For the annual plan, where we feel the real value lies, is in allowing the team to build targets and actions themselves. It is well documented that setting goals increases engagement, work satisfaction and boosts productivity. So why not take this strategy to the very next step and allow the team to build the annual plan themselves, including the targets? Stick with us, read on, because it works.

Proximity To Truth
This is another story, but it harbours a real truth. I had a sales director early in my career who was a staunch believer in naive forecasting. His view, which you can probably guess I wasn’t and still am not am a fan of, was at least simple. The sales target was a 7% year on year increase each month of exactly what you did last year. For everyone in the sale team. It didn’t matter if you were 20% down year on year, add 7%. 55% up year on year? – add 7%. No questions. No debate. That was just the way that it was.

How do you think setting targets this way affected buy-in?
When considering setting targets, let your team run through their numbers, and put forward their own views on how the next year is going to go. Will there be a roll out of a certain product into certain accounts. Has a product line had its day and on the decline. Or is something unexpected around the corner. Of course fact check it, have input, guide, steer and deploy. The key here is though, people setting their own targets are far more motivated to achieve them. Why? It is their word to deliver it. People want to deliver what they have promised.

If the numbers don’t line up. Move them.
Of course, we have to achieve certain levels as managers, that is our role, to deliver high standards within a business. Most of the time, I have seen over-estimated numbers being returned and had to review how realistic they are and move actual targets and stretch goals between the two. If, however, numbers don’t come in at the level that you expected, it alerts you off the bat that there is work to be done. More importantly you can begin to work with your team to bridge that gap together before it is an issue. Work together to highlight the opportunity to deliver the required numbers and develop that into the annual plan.

Tell Me How
A real key here when talking through the numbers is to get the team to tell you the how they will achieve these numbers. If there is huge growth, what are the points to deliver this. If there has to be a massive push to get market penetration, what level does this need to be to get to those numbers. Again, if the proximity to the truth lies with the employee, ensure that the workload to deliver that truth is understood. Does it tie in with the workload for other projects, is it achievable?

Tie this all together, this becomes the granular level of the annual plan. You now have the numbers from the team themselves. Something they will believe in and want to deliver. What’s more, it comes from the people who are closest to it, making it achievable. The real key here is also the how. What are the actions. Take down the detail that’ll be needed later, but draw out the strategy. It’s this that needs to be communicated.

Outline The Accountability
We have spoken previously in this mini-series about creating buy in as a ground swell from the bottom. Well now you have that buy-in, its important to ensure the team know of who is accountable. Most importantly within this, is how they can contribute. One of the simplest and most used examples of this is in sales. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are usually very easy to set for sales people. Generally including a material margin metric, a growth metric and a retention metric. Tidy. How do you link annual planning results to individuals outside of this area?

Create Annual Plan KPI's For All Team Members
This is such an easy way to create buy-in, make it their target for the year. We haven’t yet covered annual reviews, and half year reviews on this website and how we feel is the best way to conduct them. However, most businesses have some form of structure to deliver this already. Always ensure your goals are SMART goals. What is a SMART goal I hear you ask?

M easurable
A chievable
R elevant
T ime Based

When making targets, ensure that the SMART rules are followed:

Don’t say to a customer service call handler that their target is to increase customer service, what does that mean, how is that specific. Relate it to the annual plan. An example may be that customer retention is poor, so customer service needs to be improved, that’s fine. Make it more specific though in the target. A better way to do this would be to “Increase customer satisfaction levels to customers who have contacted with a complaint.” It’s only a minor change, but links to the plan and is much more specific.

How can we expect a staff member to know if they have been successful if we don’t give them any metrics? This may mean putting new measures in place, but trust me, you will get a better feel for your business by doing so. In the above example, a customer survey on a number of calls a day would be an excellent way to review customer service. You can also start to filter it by customers with complaints. Make a target measurable, something along the lines of “Increasing the level of “Very Satisfied” resolutions by X%”

Linking nicely to the above, of course, make the target achievable. If you currently have 1% of respondents stating that they are very satisfied, don’t expect to be at 85% at the end of the year. Culture change takes time. Instead set it at a reasonable level, it can always be revised.

Please please make it relevant to the staff member. If you have a customer service team but you have been tasked with reducing costs of goods purchased by 30% as that’s also in your department, there is no use in trying to get that team to support with it. Really. Keep the goal relevant and manageable.

Time Based
Generally I would be looking to set some tasks over a year and some over a shorter period. For example, if you have a process redesign project, and you should every year have at least one, that can be set to be completed in 3 months. Ensure the staff member knows when their target is due to be delivered.

Review, Review, Review
Constantly review and recycle the message of the annual plan. This can be formally through specific meetings, or informally with one to one’s. If you don’t recycle the message, it won’t cut through. You may be bored of hearing it, because you live and breath it, but your team probably aren’t.
Personally, I liked to have individual one on ones with my team monthly on the annual plan progress, getting them to do the same with their teams below them too. Then have a formal AP meeting once a quarter to tie everyone back in to message. Keeping the message alive.

Be Fair
I have to say this as I have seen it so often when people don’t do it. Two things are so important.

Praise Success
Success should be praised, we would expect it when we do well and our teams would want to see it from you also. It doesn’t take too long to give people a well done when it is deserved. If you have gone this far to make people buy-in to the plan, take the time to thank them for achieving it.

Be Firm on Failure
On the other side of the coin, if failure has occurred and it is truly down the individual, be firm, but fair on it. It is easy to set sliding standards on not achieving targets and creates the wrong impression around expectations.

My advice also, praise in public and align behind closed doors.

Be Adaptable
In an ever changing business environment, plans and goals can change. Be adaptable with them. Remember though, that to create a truly living document, when something changes, we must communicate it and reflect it in our actions. That means going through and realigning all of the above. Depending on the scale of the change that may be with an individual, a group, a team or the entire business. You will have to judge that on the situation. What is the most important thing though is when the strategy does change, it is communicated and people are realigned accordingly.

Review... Again
Lastly, review one last time somewhere in quarter four, set the foundations for next years annual plan as you will  be on that journey again, but take time to go through the success of this year. Remember, we are selling the annual plan process and what better way to do it, other than showing people it really works.

We hoped you have enjoyed this mini-series, if you have any comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below, and good luck in your annual planning journey.

Cross Functional Buy-In. Not In Siloes
We can build the best plans and set the most aspirational targets. If we cannot align the business to support and deliver it. We will fail.

These supporting structures are what we as managers must ensure the business is focused and able to deliver. If we cannot do so, how are the targets realistic? If we have to have a different service offering to deliver growth, how are service supporting. If marketing need to create a new set of campaigns, how does this sit in the marketing plan? Take the strategy from the actions and the elements of support and weave them into the annual plan. It is our job to sell this throughout the rest of the business and create the wider buy-in.

This in itself is a reciprocal buy-in process that ensures the supporting structures allow growth to occur. By ensuring all elements and departments are aligned the spider web of the annual plan becomes an interconnected series of buy-in, agreement and action.Now there is a focus towards delivering what we all have agreed, as opposed to simply doing what we have been told.


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