We just held our 2020 strategy meeting at ThirdLove, and this year we decided to do things a little differently.

When we were doing our planning for 2019 (at the end of 2018), we were very delayed. We didn't have our strategies set until January, and were still finalizing our budgets well into February. This wasn't a huge deal, since every company goes about budgeting and goal-setting a bit differently.

Big companies tend to do their strategy and financial planning six months before the end of the year. Some companies even do it at the beginning of summer, which just isn't feasible for a smaller company or startup. But still, we felt we had waited a bit too long last year and so we made a change this time around.

This year we tried to be more proactive--and in a different sort of way.

In the past, a very small group of leaders within the company handled the budgeting: me, and our head of strategy, with maybe one or two other people being called in intermittently. We were the ones who would create and craft the KPIs for the year, and for the most part, didn't leverage the cross-functional teams as much.

This year, however, we really wanted to make sure we brought more people into the conversation--especially our broader leadership teams, directors and up. This meant having more than 15 different voices all weighing in, helping shape the goals for the company for the next year.

First we started with a small group of our executive leaders and asked, "What are the biggest opportunities for growth and expansion for us in 2020?" And we asked them to come to the table with four to six ideas. We then started going around in a circle, allowing everyone time to talk through what their ideas were--writing them on Post-it notes and pasting them up on the conference room wall. 

Once everyone had shared their ideas, we began to group certain ideas together. And what became almost immediately apparent was that the collective all seemed to be fairly aligned on the areas within the business we all needed to focus on in order to grow--which was terrific. And, the meeting ended up being extremely efficient (much more efficient than me and one or two other individuals doing this ourselves), but more than that, it showed that we were all on the same page. 

Next, we came up with all the tactical and exciting ways we could accomplish each KPI.

Once we had the high level goals for the company laid out, we assigned different people to act as the "captain" of a high-level KPI. 

We then grouped our leadership team into different sub-groups, who all got together for a few hours and brainstormed all the different ways they could work toward accomplishing that one specific goal. One was brand awareness, another was retention, etc. And then they had to come back and present their solutions to the larger group.

The reason this exercise worked so well was because there was enough room for creative freedom, but not so much room that it ended up being a directionless brainstorming session. Each group had to drill down into a specific area of the business, take ownership over it, and then bring it back to the larger group to be tightened up even further. 

At the end of the year, we will have each team captain present these high-level strategies to the entire company, which will then inform how each and every individual employee sets his or her own personal goals (as they relate to the larger goals). 

Elect the right team captain, and keep iterating on your process.

One mistake we made last year was having too many KPIs for each goal. Another realization was whenever we had a strong leader / team in place, we accomplished our goals much more seamlessly. So this year we also created a more robust working team for each company goal.

Goal-setting is a process. What works one year might not work the next. For example, we've had to change our strategy and planning sessions several times now because the company has continued to grow--adding so many new voices and perspectives into the mix. 

What's important is that the goals you set for the company are clearly defined, trackable, and ideally working toward one macro KPI. Not two. Not twelve. One.