Time for Course Correction

Edited and updated for 2016

spooky shipNo matter how spot on your plans were at the start of the year, you are certainly off-course right now. Mid-year is a time for a course correction—and the best-run companies do it quarterly. If you haven’t done it yet, I’ll share a how to run a great mid year planning session. 

The hardest part is often finding the time your planning session. Once that’s handled, you will need to assign pre-work, prepare an agenda, lead the meeting, and set up next steps for execution. Here are the details on each of the 5 steps: 

1. Time and Place. The best place for this kind of meeting is off-site. You want the full attention of your leadership team, without the distractions of daily operations. Pick a location with the right atmosphere. Hotels and conference centers are easy, but also pricey and boring. Interesting alternatives include breather.com, airbnb.com, or a country club. We like to start with a dinner the night before to get people thinking before the main meeting. Sending folks off to sleep after a dinner discussion is a great way to create deep thinking and begin the team alignment. 

2. Assign Pre-Work. Review goals and priorities for the year, note what’s complete (green), in progress (yellow), or behind/stalled (red).
Find an example or two of things the company has done really well. 

Make a list of what you think the company should start, stop, or continue doing. Make a list of the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (the SWOT; you might also think about major trends around you). 

Think on what the top 3 issues are now for the company.

3. Agenda. The following agenda works well if you are running your own meeting (you can also hire someone like a Gazelles coach to facilitate): 

  • Dinner the night before – share stories of things you did well as a company, and continue your dinner conversation with an informal review of your SWOT. Go easy on the alcohol, this is not a night for heavy drinking. 
  • Send the team to bed engaged and thinking. 
  • Begin your formal meeting in the morning with the intended outcome and a preview of the day. 
  • The first segment should be a review people and functional roles. Do you have the right people, in the right seats? 
  • Next, you’ll want to review strategy: company values, purpose, brand promises, BHAG (an audacious 10-30 goal), 3-5 year med term goals, SWOT, and trends. 
  • Now review the cash position and your business model. We use the Cash Conversion Cycle or the Power of One exercises to find funds for growth.
  • Lead into execution planning for the next quarter (or the rest of the year) with a review of the YTD performance on goals and priorities. Let everyone share their own green/yellow/red and be wary of any who are “all green.”
  • You should now be able to create 3-5 priorities for the company and align on the #1 priority. Your prep work began this thinking but your early ideas will have changed. 
  • Once you have the company priorities set, you’ll want to create a theme that captures the spirit and assign a theme-team to communicate it. 
  • Finish off your work by having everyone create (and share) personal priorities and action plans for the period ahead. What will they need to do to support the company priorities?
  • Complete your meeting with a little celebration to acknowledge the good work and to allow for informal processing of all your thinking. This social time is important. 

4. Lead the Meeting. 

  • If you are leading this meeting yourself, it helps greatly to have people think and write before speaking, and to let everyone else speak before the CEO or founder does. Every group has vocal and dominant voices that can overwhelm great ideas from quieter team members. 
  • As your meeting begins and progresses, watch for people that might be unsettled or unhappy. These people may be ready to leave the team, or have a deep concern that they haven’t been able to share. 
  • If you have hired a facilitator or coach, make sure that you are in alignment on the outcomes and process. 

5. Follow-Up. No matter how great the meeting was, your follow-up habits will determine its success in execution. 

  • We capture action items for follow up in every meeting using a designated person and a WHO/WHAT/WHEN sheet. Then we put all our strategy and planning work into the AlignToday tool. 
  • We like team members to have a printed Vision Summary sheet afterwards in their work areas, and we believe in using a Daily Huddle to keep the team in sync. 

If you’d like to talk this through, we offer a free consultation. We can also help facilitate and coach these as private meetings, or in affordable Gazelles group sessions.