A thread by Shreyas Doshi on how to go about annual planning, keeping the right focus and thesis in perspective.


In the next few weeks, the much-dreaded annual planning exercise will take over the lives of managers across most tech companies.

A thread on how to make annual planning less stressful, more useful & perhaps even fun:

1/5 👇🏾

1/
Have a strategy.

Can’t emphasize how important this is. Annual planning can be a lot of work for teams that don’t have a compelling, agreed-upon strategy. For those that do, a large part of planning is mapping the existing strategy to what’ll be done next year. Easy peasy.

2/
Avoid false precision for numeric targets.

This is where the bulk of the time is wasted. Often, people LOVE doing this because it makes them feel & look smart. Know that good enough is good enough, there’s NO WAY to accurately predict certain numbers. Ditto for release dates.

3/
Identify top N dependencies & resolve those first.

Prioritize. Don’t be afraid to escalate when you can’t get commitment on a major dependency with another team/org. This stuff is high leverage & needs your attention. This is where you need to aim for a near-perfect outcome.

4/
Templates work for you, you don’t work for templates.

Unless you’ll literally get fired for modifying the company-defined template (ask your boss), just change it to suit your needs. Remember, the chief goal is that the plan is sound & is clear to everyone involved.

5/
Remember your audience.

At most mid-size/large companies, managers tend to view executives as the chief target audience of their annual plans. Recognize that you & your team are at least equally the target audience (& ideally more). Plan MUST be credible & clear for the team.

Bonus/
Borrow from Google’s 70/20/10.

Way back in the day, Google invested 70 / 20 / 10 % of its time across search+ads / apps / big-bets. I’ve taken this simple X/Y/Z % framework to many of my teams to create clarity on where we’ll spend our time & why. Has worked quite well.

Over the past 10 yrs, I’ve spent ¼ the average time spent by other managers on quarterly & annual planning. I think my teams have executed reasonably well & I haven’t been fired (yet). This stuff has worked well for me, but as always, remember context is everything, so adapt away
Last but not least, remember:

Repetition is the most useful leadership tactic. So create an annual plan that can be repeated to & remembered by your team. Create it with key team members so there’s buy-in. Make it accessible in a short doc & adapt it as you go through 2021.

👍🏾

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