Don’t wait until the fall to start planning for the new fiscal year. Start in the summer to set your organization up for success. Here’s how.

Summer is upon us and the current fiscal year is starting to come into focus. Now is not the time to pause. It’s time to start planning for and thinking about developing your next annual plan.

Typically, annual planning doesn’t start until the fall, but by then it’s too late. You’re deep into end-of-year activities, you’re trying to work around holiday schedules and you’re already putting in extra hours to wrap up the little things that are easy to let slip.

All of that last-minute scrambling prevents you from creating a successful annual plan.

Starting now to prepare for your annual planning activities will enable leaders from across the business to be much more thoughtful in their planning efforts. Most people hate creating their annual plan because it feels like creating a plan around a budget is restrictive.

If you start earlier, everyone will have enough time to create a plan that does more than achieve tactical results. You can create a plan for change that is supported by a budget and aligned with the areas you want to change or improve.

Let’s break down your plan for the rest of the year:

Summer Months

  • Have your sales teams create an 18-month forecast. Yes, they will likely complain and argue it’s too far out to be accurate. That’s alright. Right now you’re trying to get a sense of how things are trending.
  • Have your leadership team think about what can and should be done differently to achieve even better results. Remember to have your leaders focus on what they can do to improve the customer experience. If you don’t have happy customers, your plan won’t be important for long.
  • Have your finance team pull together the standard costs of operating the business and align it to the sales forecast.

Early Fall

  • Update the sales forecast and agree on the operational costs of running your business in the upcoming year.
  • Refine the list of items from your leadership team to pinpoint highest priority wants and must-haves.

Late Fall

  • Assemble all of the pieces under development to create a living plan.
  • Update the sales forecast and refine your operational costs.
  • Commit to a short list of projects – the most important things to complete in the year ahead.

End of Year

  • Lock in your final sales forecast.
  • Prioritize the projects you need to get completed.
  • Finalize your operational costs and supporting budgets.

Five Steps to Planning Success

Now that you’re headed towards creating a better annual plan, there are five steps you can take to ensure the success of that plan:

  1. Identify specific ways to measure success in the upcoming year. These should be distinct from standard operational measures used to run your business.
  2. Identify a single person to be accountable for each success measure. Give that person the time and tools they need to achieve success.
  3. Ensure everyone in the company knows how you are measuring success. Educate everyone on why this is critical to the upcoming year.
  4. Let everyone know how you plan to celebrate when success is achieved. Then regularly report on your progress.
  5. Be sure to follow through on the celebration of your success!

Once you make this a pattern, you’ll see an increased level of engagement from people across your business. This will also allow you to continuously repeat the planning process and share it with the organization in a timely fashion.