We were talking about planning, specifically annual strategic planning. It frequently seems to be a laborious process comprised to some degree of guesswork. The overriding questions usually are: Where do we want to be a year from now? and How are we going to get there?
One group of owners settled on a different approach. Instead of thinking in terms of next year, or 2-3 years out, they are going to set big goals 5 years out or more, and everything else is in 90 day increments.
The reasoning is simple. The big goal(s) speaks to the vision for the business. It could be exceptional growth, sale of the business, succession to the next generation, whatever. The benchmark is that it is big in terms of optimal outcome.
Getting to that goal is a matter of immediate steps in short term horizons, and adjusting as you go. Engage employees and management on short term (90 day) goal development and tracking, being sure the short term goals align with the longer term vision (5+ years) for the business.
Focusing on shorter term activities is how businesses operate. As Tony said in the group discussion, we are all in survival mode in one form or another. We look at the current customer base, new opportunities that can close in the short term, and the resources needed to deliver on time, with top quality, and within budget.
So, give up the 1, 2, or 3 year middle ground planning horizon. Instead, know the ultimate outcome. Then overlay a 90 day structured process of goal setting, measurement, tracking and discussion. Plans are dynamic and the short term activities continually adjust based on the results.
Using this approach helps organizations always knows where they are in the immediate time frame, and makes sure that where they are going aligns with the long term goals.