Nailing the Quarterly Plan

Gantt masti time.

Nailing the Quarterly Plan

I am going to apologise now for not writing out a more detailed annual planning post *before* the financial year started. A lot of the quality of your quarterly plan is bounded by the quality of your annual plan but perhaps it is easier to fix planning over a quarterly horizon than over an annual one. Who knows? Anyways, it’s mid-June. Quarter ends in three weeks. Soon after you will need to have worked out what you want to do over JAS quarter.

Standard disclaimer — if you’re a bunch of nerds around one conference table, you don’t need to read this. But if you need to lock multiple teams onto several moving targets then please read on.

Your current planning process.

Here’s how planning works at most places — the ‘leadership’ goes to some 5-star hotel or fancy club. There the CEO gives a rousing speech about how lucky we all to be here and how rich we all gonna get. Then they say that last quarter’s performance was terrible or ok-could-be-better. Department heads nod their heads, take some of the blame, defend themselves against brutal market sentiment or some other Act of God and agree to work harder this quarter.

Then they trade growth numbers like they’re bargaining at a Linking Road T-Shirt shop.

“We need 50% more signups if we’re going to hit our targets.”
”Not 50. Impossible!”
”Ok, tera nahi mera nahi 30%”

For those of you who’ve never been to a leadership planning offsite, this is what they’re doing behind closed doors. This and drinking coffee and eating biscuits and doodling in those obligatory notepads with cheap-ass pens from the lowest bidder. And peeing a lot because the AC is on too high.

Once they agree on the Os, then it’s time to retrofit them into KRs. 90% of these KRs are carried over from last quarter because we actually shipped nothing, so this part goes real quick. Then they all go and drink.

The next day, hungover and sore from the meaningless negotiations, they come back to the office and beat you over the head with these numbers. It takes two weeks to finalize the plan. Everyone congratulates themselves on finishing the planning in good time. This quarter we will surely achieve the plan.

Six weeks later the OKR planning sheet is all in the green. Everyone is happy. Confident. Six weeks after that the sheet is totally red. All the ‘on track’ projects all somehow went off the rails irrevocably in the last week of the quarter. All we managed to do was complete some projects that were put on the O list two quarters ago. They finally shipped. And the projects that did ship didn’t do as well as we expected. Yes, they looked fine in the A/B test. No when we rolled them out to 100% nothing changed.

Rinse. Repeat.

sounds familiar?

Let me know in the comments. And if you have some planning horror stories, let’s hear them. If you don’t want to be identified, email and I’ll post them here anonymously.

so what to do instead?

Good question! But I know you’ve either got to run for your next meeting or you’ve run out of attention span so will stop here for today. I will soon give you some tips about how to plan your quarters so that everyone feels like it is their plan. Some of the tips are so simple you will believe that they can never work. Others might be a little more practical and straightforward. Stay tuned.

This is a free post but the next post will be for paid subs only. Now’s a good time to hit that upgrade button.