We were working on a CEO's plan for the next year when I noticed his team fidgeting and looking uncomfortable during our planning session. I paused and asked various team members to share what was bothering them. They shared that they were not confident that they had enough revenue and sales opportunities to achieve the goals that the CEO wanted to achieve. In the past, this is when fear took over and executives would feel forced to agree to goals that they did not believe they could achieve.
Don’t fall into this trap. This trap robs you of success before the year even begins. Instead, when such a situation arises, and you have a gap to close, let’s approach it differently. My suggestion is that you do the following “20 Ways To…” brainstorming exercise to come up with creative solutions to close the gap.
Step 1: Objective: what do we need to achieve? What are we generating ideas for?
- What is the purpose of this project? Why is it important? How will you know if it works? In this example, we are trying to come up with 20 ways to increase revenue in the upcoming fiscal year.
- How can I help? Who else should be involved in this project? Should I be engaged with the sales leader? Who else?
Step 2: Facts: what do we already know? Just the facts, please!
- What facts do we need to bring to the meeting? Who do we need to get that data from? How long will it take to get it? How long will it take to analyze it?
- You'll want to collect all the facts that you have at this stage
- Annual organic growth rate
- Renewal Rate
Step 3: Brainstorm ideas.
- First, just come up with an initial list of potential solutions. Save any thoughts about whether they're good or bad until later. Don't interrupt the flow of creative thinking by saying no or butting in with reasons why something won't work.
- Let each person brainstorm for two or three ideas independently. Then, have the group discuss them together.
- Start writing down your thoughts about what you think the business could do. Don't worry if they're not perfect yet - we'll work on them later. Just write down whatever comes into your head.
- It is important not to stop the flow of ideas with execution discussions or reasons why an idea might not work. Oftentimes a great idea gets generated from 4 or 5 mediocre ideas. So don’t stop the flow of ideas.
- Keep going, encourage the team, and keep the energy level high. There are no wrong answers when brainstorming.
- Don't stop until you have at least 20 ideas on the board.
Step 4: Now's the time for the team to push back and argue against any ideas that are not worthy. This is the time to poke any holes as you see them at this time
- Too hard to do?
- Too expensive?
- Not enough revenue for the effort?
- Will it distract us from more important items
Step 5: Sell it to the team.
- Are there any ideas that anyone feels particularly strongly about? Let people pitch any idea they feel passionate about, including yourself.
- Will this help us achieve our long-term goals?
- Explain how it ties to your 3-5 year strategic plans.
Step 6: Organize and vote.
- Number each of the ideas on the board.
- Give each member 3 or fewer votes to vote for the best ideas.
- Have them write down their votes on paper, and wait to hear the votes until everyone has written down their vote.
- Tally up the votes and determine the winner
Step 7: Discuss, debate, and commit.
- Discuss the ideas with the highest votes. It is crucial to discuss, debate, and decide on what you want actually to do. Get clear on the decisions you are making and commit resources to do the work.
- Often times these are the best ideas to implement. But, not always.
- Allow a final discussion on the top ideas, and prioritize which ones will get done.
- Ask the person who will be implementing these ideas for the final thoughts. Be careful not to assign the idea to a team member who is not committed or does not believe in the value that this idea will bring.
- Come up with an action plan in your quarterly plan
Our coaches have led clients through this ideation process hundreds of times. They have succeeded in helping companies get unstuck and develop a few key ideas to bridge the gap to achieving the results they wanted. It is amazing how there always seem to be more than enough ideas on the wall or board to fill or surpass the gap. The ideas and revenues are sitting in the brains of your team. Facilitate it out of their heads, and have a great next year.
Have a wonderful annual planning session. Email me or put your comments on the blog and let me know how you are doing. I would love to hear about how this technique helped you achieve your plans.
Looking for more Annual Planning Meeting information to help get you started? Check out our additional resources:
Annual Planning: 9 Tips to Focus & Align Your Team with a Great Plan
Annual Planning Playbook: 5 Steps to Create a Winning Annual Plan
How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning
Best Practices for Annual Planning
Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Resource Center
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