It's time to start your company's New Year resolution

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Autumn is fast approaching. While most companies are working hard to use the remaining four months to meet their 2012 business goals, it's also important to look ahead to 2013. Here is a five-step process to complete your annual plan:

Identify a planning owner and an executive sponsor

From the get-go, it's vital to identify "one" owner. An executive sponsor is essential to enable the planning owner to "herd the cats" from multiple function areas.

Preparation is key

The planning owner needs to craft clear planning objectives and timelines with management approval. This person should also lead a task force with representatives from finance, sales, marketing, product development, operations and other teams.The purpose of this task force is twofold: prepare the necessary information for senior managers' planning day, and be a voice to kick off the upcoming sub-planning within respective departments.

Data needed for senior managers' planning days:

  • Overall economic trends and supply and demand product forecasts
  • Company's SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis
  • Competitive study
  • Trending of business goals in the past three years—actuals v. goals.
  • Product roadmap
  • Financial analysis of product cost, sales revenue, cash flow
  • Marketing campaign metrics
  • Other information you think you may need

Conduct a face-to-face planning session with a clear agenda and a facilitator's help

The most senior manager needs to approve the planning day's objective and agenda.  He or she should kick off the session to motivate and set the tone for other senior staff. Use a facilitator to generate productive discussions among the staff. The session shouldn't simply be a slide show. The objective of the session is to create a rough written draft of 2013 corporate-wide business objectives and goals. The length of the planning day depends on the agenda. I strongly recommend a one- to two-day face-to-face offsite meeting.

Commit to follow up (and more follow up)

Bear in mind that a lot of action items come out of the planning day. The planning owner and the task force team need to follow up and close these action items. In addition, the planning owner should provide periodic updates to the key stakeholders. Depending on company size, the senior management team needs to commit to finalize the overall business objectives and goals two to four weeks before the year starts.

Roll out 2013 objectives and goals broadly before 2013

Through webcasts, open forums, email, website and other forms of communication, senior managers should communicate 2013 objectives and goals broadly. Everyone in the company needs to understand the business objectives and goals and should hear and see the same information at least once.

With clear company-wide objectives and goals, the CFO can allocate budget accordingly. Each function can start aligning its own departmental objectives and goals with company direction. Planning is never completely done, but this process forces the company to act early.

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