Plan-IconPrinciples and practical steps for getting value
out of your annual planning exercises

Here we’ll talk you through two core principles and five practical action steps for running a high value annual planning exercise.

Core Principles

Business success research proves that collaborative strategic direction delivers greater value than top-down dictated strategy. Collaborative strategy simply means giving your key players a meaningful opportunity to contribute to plans before they are finalised.

Markets and businesses are far too complex for management teams to be able to analyse and properly direct in one or two planning sessions without adequate preparation. Good preparation means analysing the market, the business and presenting key themes and issues as inputs to group discussions and decisions.

Action Steps:

1: Group Preparation

Divide the job of analysing the current state of your business and the market you operate in amongst your leadership team. Brief your team clearly to come back with high-level overviews including the following:

  • Market and Competition
  • Customer satisfaction, retention and feedback
  • Sales and Marketing capacity and requirements
  • Internal business health including staff engagement and process strength
  • Finances including capacity for new initiatives

Leaderkit’s Business 360 provides a structured format for this exercise.

Divide the job according to the existing functions and natural interest of the individual managers. Ask each manager to present the top three issues and opportunities and top 3 strategic initiatives required to address key needs within their area of interest. Circulate any detailed reading and background information in advance of group sessions.


2. CEO Preparation

The CEO must review all the materials in advance and form an initial view on the organisation’s strategy and direction before the group sessions.  It’s the CEO’s responsibility to ensure an outcome is achieved.

The CEO will allow the group sessions to shape his or her view and if necessary, completely change it.

The CEO must however have a baseline view, which ensures the planning exercise can be completed and confidence is maintained.


3. Group Discussions

meeting-of-kidsRun group discussions around a cycle of presenting, prioritising and planning. Each manager will present the key findings and issues within their area of responsibility and put up their proposed strategic initiatives.

Use simple voting systems (dots on a flipchart list works very effectively) to prioritise issues and actions.

There will be a clear understanding that the CEO has a final veto. We recommend the use of an independent facilitator to reduce the perception of bias.

The output should be a small list of goals, KPI’s and strategic initiatives for the year ahead.



4. Simplify the output

Capture and condense the outputs of the group discussions in a simple portable format such as a one-page business plan.

Leaderkit’s recommended format is a one-page plan with a 30-40 word strategic foundation, 10-12 annual goals and 10-20 key projects.

Get a copy of our one-page-plan template including inbuilt advice for free:



5. Establish Execution Workflow

Establish a system or method for outworking the initiatives agreed upon. Make sure every key goal and project has a single executive owner. Ensure business plan execution is part of the regular management meeting and reporting cadence.

Kick-start the execution workflow as the final step in the annual planning process.

Check out the Leaderkit execution philosophy for more on how to do it.



Thanks for reading this post – I hope it’s been valuable. Please do share your tips and thoughts on the topic in the comments section below. Many CEOs and executives are professionally isolated when it comes to strategy. Let’s change that together.