Happy New Year!

Time moves quickly these days, don’t you agree? If you run a business or lead an organization, the benchmarks of the year, such as July 4th scurry by as quickly as the fireworks disintegrate in the sky. Once it turns to the fall, for Oyster Organizational Development that specifically means turning our attention to business planning so that we roll into January with a good game plan. You’re ready, right?

Perhaps not. It’s not just leaders of small companies who give us that deer-in-the-headlights look when we ask how their strategic planning is going; some of them head medium or large organizations, too. It’s common for people to acknowledge that they’ve been too busy, too focused on big projects, or simply too distracted fighting fires and the year has gotten away. Here’s the common refrain: “I’m trying to survive closing the year… how can I begin to think about starting one?” The end result is that they aren’t ready for the day that will determine so much about the entire year.

January 1.

If January 1st isn’t the biggest day of the year for you as a business leader, it should be.* In fact, if you work with Oyster OD, we’re telling you to share or delegate the year-end wrap-up and kick new year planning into high gear once October arrives. This is a thing on your task list and it takes real leadership to make it happen. This is the quarter where it takes incredible balance to finish strong and start well. And to do that, you may need to start well as you finish strong, reversing the emphasis.

Here’s a checklist to help you draw a line in the sand and make sure you and your entire team, whether it’s 40 employees or 800, are pulling in the same direction on January 1st.

To doAsk yourself
Mission/Vision reviewAre these still relevant? Do they reflect the current focus? Should they be updated?
Core strategy review and strategic planningWhat worked this year and what didn’t? What new opportunities are opening up (or old ones closing)?  What is changing or emerging in our environment that we need to pay attention to?
Business planDoes every business unit participate actively in creating an actionable plan? Is it achievable yet aspirational?
Goal and budget developmentWhat will each team do and contribute to accomplish the business plan? Watch for a common error here. Don’t create a budget prior to developing goals, and then try to work backward. Work forward.
Tactical planning“Tactic” sounds so sterile, but no. This is where you make sure that every team member—every employee—helps determine and confirm where they fit in the goals, and why you invest in people individually. It’s performance planning, goal setting, personal achievement plans, or some other catchy name or process. But at the end of the day it’s a roadmap designed by team leader and team member on what should be accomplished and by when. When done well, it’s also the gateway to autonomy and engagement.

That checklist doesn’t look too bad. But doing it collaboratively takes time. And we do acknowledge that finishing the current year strong is really, really important. However, getting ready for January 1 on the following March 1, April 1, or even later, means you’ll be right back in catch-up mode next year.

The fall is also a great time to make sure all parts of your organization are functioning well, and it’s always a great time to listen to your customers. Oyster OD can provide the tools, the process, and the planning to get you ready for January 1. Happy New Year!

*If your fiscal year isn’t calendar, just modify January 1 to reflect your real first day.

Julie Nielsen is president of Oyster Organizational Development, a firm that helps organizations and individuals be wildly successful through organizational effectiveness strategies and coaching. Julie has over 30 years of experience in helping organizations and individuals succeed. 

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