Annual planning: dreaming big and building consensus

Annual planning: dreaming big and building consensus

A case study on Veolia UK, and how they provided an appropriate way for colleagues to present and challenge their various strategic goals and priorities.

As a new year kicks off, many of us will sit optimistically in a conference room somewhere and dig into annual strategic planning for our team, our department or perhaps even our entire company.  It’s a time to place big bets for the coming year, and to anticipate and debate some of the challenges we are all experiencing in a business environment that seems to accelerate through increasing stages of flux and disruption with each passing quarter. Whether disruption in your sector takes the form of new digital platforms, direct-to-consumer upstarts or new regulatory changes, the one thing we can all agree on is that striking the balance between agility and stability is amongst the most important jobs leaders must undertake.

As a recent Harvard Business Review (Nov - Dec 2018) article rightly proclaims, businesses achieving this balance successfully recognise that in

Confronting disruptive change, the heart of the challenge is a human one. Leaders understand that they must allocate human and financial resources to new-growth efforts or face a future in which start-ups and other rivals overtake them. Yet they are often paralysed by the status quo and disagreement about the future

The first step towards resolving that inevitable disagreement, of course, is providing an appropriate venue for colleagues to present and challenge their various strategic goals and priorities. This is precisely the sort of collaborative and creative environment that Matt Pitt, Head of People Development at Veolia UK, was able to create one Friday in December, as he gathered his direct reports to start to shape a view of 2019 and beyond that was equal parts ambitious and executable.  In preparation for the one day offsite, Matt asked each participant to complete a “dream canvas”, using a popular format for documenting and analysing strategic missions:

Matt and his team were kind enough to invite Just3Things to listen in to their presentations and debates, as the various objectives and evaluation measures were actually captured on-the-fly inside the J3T platform.  This data capture allowed us to immediately visualise clear accountability for each deliverable and align the various goals to Matt’s overall vision. Each proposed metric for evaluating success was documented explicitly and was ready to track as soon as January 1 rolled around:

Goal data has been changed to ensure confidentiality of client.

Of course, once these goals, metrics and measures are re-visited in the post-holiday light, there will be adjustments made and new priorities may be set, but the fact that the initial targets that were agreed on the day are preserved and can be easily adjusted will certainly help re-align everyone for a fast start in January.

Undertaking the exercise of publicly declaring the alignment of your individual and team goals to the company’s overall strategy is essential, as it immediately reveals workstreams that may not be aligned to a key strategic pillar at all.  If those workstreams are still considered valuable, but aren’t underpinning the company’s “north star” vision in any way, further debate will need to take place to ensure everyone understands why that disparity exists.

Ultimately, a quick glance at Matt’s team’s dashboard will reveal that there is already a solid balance between innovation projects and incremental improvements to existing processes that will increase key measures like employee satisfaction:

Goal data has been changed to ensure confidentiality of client.

It was incredibly gratifying to see how comfortable Matt’s team were in openly anticipating challenges and setbacks to each individual’s proposed “dream” statements, and we hope that dialogue continues to shape adjustments to their top priorities over the course of 2019 and beyond.  

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