The Importance of Conducting a Retrospective on Your Business Plans

By Christy Johnson

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The Importance of Conducting a Retrospective

The biggest challenge for executives at the end or start of a new cycle isn’t creating a new business plan – but socializing it, resourcing it, and formally closing your old one.

While rudimentary, it helps me to go back to basics. Do a quick mental checklist. Have you…

  1. Gotten your stakeholders together to review your new plans, make revisions, and gain buy-in from leaders?
  2. Properly resourced your plans by assigning project managers? Do they know who they are and what they’re responsible for?
  3. Put operational or transformational plans in place to help acquire resources or install processes you don’t already have?
  4. Reviewed your previous successes, cancellations, and continuations?
  5. Talked about what worked and didn’t work last planning cycle, and why?
  6. Made a final, clean edit of your plans with all the above in mind and delivered it to your organization?

This is stuff we all know, but basic steps sometimes get lost in higher-level happenings. This happens to everyone.

Here’s a 6-minute read to help do a quick scan of whether or not you’re ready to execute on your new strategies.

Why It’s Really, Really Important to Look Back at the Past

It’s tempting to just hit the ground running with completely fresh plans. But without a clear understanding of your starting point, you may be headed in the wrong direction.

All too often, we forget to analyze previous work and fall victim to the Planning Fallacy. It’s unlikely, albeit optimistic, that you’ll be able to accomplish the same type of project with fewer resources or in less time. Analyze your metrics from the past to make sure you’ve realistically budgeted for your new plan.

Set aside time now – if you haven’t already – to review your plans. Build custom dashboards and reports to easily see the successes and failures across your enterprise from the previous planning cycle. Work to highlight how those challenges and victories will impact your upcoming plans, and how they might alter the vision you’ve developed for the future.

The final step? Go through each plan item and decide – close out? cancel? carry forward/continue? or create new? One of our customer success managers, Elise Ramia, wrote an article on the importance of a formal plan close-out and how to do it.

Resourcing is More than Just Budget

After closing out past projects, you’re still not quite ready to execute your new ones. Have you resourced your plans?

Your enterprise may have already approved budgets, but remember that resources needed to execute your plans go beyond dollars.

Yes, there’s payment involved in skill-building, hiring, equipment, etc., but two things that often get forgotten are free: making sure 1) you have a transformation plan to roll out new processes, and 2) the people you’ve chosen to lead initiatives are appropriately assigned and allocated according to realistic timelines.

In your plan, is there a major process change that needs to take place in order to achieve your organization’s goals? This requires a separate plan. What’s more, remember there are two prongs to change management – the process and the people. Engage your HR and Operations teams in your transformation plan to manage change adoption from the employee side as well as the business side.

When you’re building transformation-capable teams and choosing leaders to execute initiatives, accountability and alignment are essential. Putting someone’s name in a cell next to a plan item on a spreadsheet won’t do it. Gain managers’ buy-in by discussing responsibilities and getting their agreement on each project to create a culture of commitment to execution.

Socialize Your Plans to Get Real Buy-In

Once you’ve reviewed your old plan and budgeted all your resources, remember to take your time to socialize your plan effectively. Don’t just email out a slide deck and call it done. (Seriously, don’t do it!!!)

Create an engaging way for employees to learn about your new plans directly from your Executive Leadership Team. Whether you roll out your finalized plans in a Town Hall meeting with a Q&A, a series of cross-functional lunch & learns, one-on-one water cooler conversations, after-hours events, or likely some combination of these – the goal is to get people talking. Allow people from other teams to give new perspectives, share, and ask questions. The togetherness will help create ownership across your company.

These conversations will help highlight your change champions, as well as your resistors. Check in regularly during implementation to reinforce your goals and keep a pulse on adoption. If you already have a set cadence to regularly review status updates and other metrics, use these check-ins to also survey employees to test how they’re feeling about change management. Asking for feedback along the way will keep your plans top-of-mind and may reveal things that were missed.

The main thing to keep in mind about socializing your plans is to ensure the message you’re delivering is consistent and supported by your executive leadership team. The way you discuss your new plans with each group will be specifically tailored to describe how their work rolls up to support bigger initiatives, but your enterprise goals should be emphasized the same way across the board. Each team should understand how much and how long they’ll be affected by any change, as well as be aware of other change initiatives that are running parallel or intersect.

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Reviewing past plans, properly resourcing, and effectively socializing plans are the most overlooked potential pitfalls when creating new strategies. Looking back can provide as much information as looking ahead and should not be taken lightly. Aligning your team to initiatives and processes that have been vetted through historical data and accurate resourcing will amplify your success in your new planning cycle.