Time for Strategic Annual Planning? Here is how to go about it

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 👇🏾

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Sign Up for nextbigwhat newsletter

Delivered everyday 8 AM. Most comprehensive coverage of the tech ecosystem.

Download Pluggd.in, the short news app for busy professionals