Most companies use the end of Q4 and the beginning of Q1 to set annual strategies.
In fact, it's very similar to the way we all like to reflect on our past 12 months and set goals for the coming year. Make your morning workouts, drink more water, hire a marketing director--they all come from the same desire to be a little better in the year ahead.
This is also a great time of year to set business goals because your team had a chance to relax over the holidays, reset, reprioritize, and think about what they want to achieve next year.
If you weren't planning to strategize in the new year before reading this, know that you aren't alone. But also know that without those goals in place, you'll end up working in a haphazard manner, which is the opposite of what you need to be streamlined and successful.
Here's why setting year-long strategies is a practice your company can't afford to skip:
Set the right annual strategies in order to align and execute on your company's goals.
Every single person on your team needs to know what the goals are for the year and why they're working on certain tasks. You need alignment across teams, and setting high-level strategies for the year is the best way to start getting everyone on the same page.
It's a good idea to cap the number of strategies somewhere between three and five. They shouldn't be simple goals--they should be big, difficult to achieve, and maybe even a little vague when they're first proposed. For instance, one of your strategic goals could be expanding your business internationally, and of course, that type of plan will be more complicated, take more time, and require more resources.
Remember, if these strategies were both easy to accomplish and high-impact, you would have done them already.
Keep in mind, strategies can shift throughout the year.
I would never judge the success of a year by strictly examining how many of the strategies our team achieved. It's much more complex than that.
In order to accomplish our strategies from this past year, for example, we needed to hire two senior leaders. That's obviously not something we wanted to rush, so it took us several months to find the right people. That gap meant we had to wait to kick off one of the strategies we had agreed upon back in January. It wasn't ideal, but it wouldn't have made sense for us to force a goal when we didn't have the right team in place.
There are always intangibles, always things you weren't expecting that change your priorities in some way or another. A missed strategic goal doesn't necessarily constitute a mistake.
But you should still have a plan in place to work toward your strategies.
When you choose to pursue high-level goals, you have to lay it out in milestones. You can't decide to expand internationally or get into retail without smaller steps in place to accomplish those over-arching strategies.
At ThirdLove, we like to revisit or reset our goals about six months into the year. So, in January, we organize a leadership offsite where each senior leader runs through their team's high-level plan and KPIs. Then, in June, we regroup and look through the lists to see what we've completed, what's in progress, and what hasn't been started. The last category is what we really focus on in that meeting. Because if we haven't begun making progress on a strategy after six months, the reason why needs to be investigated.
If you take the time upfront to build out your strategy and how you're going to accomplish it, you'll generally have a better shot at sticking to your roadmap.
Take time to reflect on the past year to better plan for the upcoming year.
It's better to choose the wrong strategies than to set none at all.
Unfortunately, a lot of smaller companies operate without any annual strategies. So people feel like they're just working on what's currently on their plate, rather than having any time to look ahead to the future.
No matter your size, it's important to take even a few hours to reflect on the past year and begin thinking about the next. Were you overzealous in your estimation of what the team could accomplish? Did you set the bar too low and have everything done by June?
That reflection also gives your team a moment to feel good about everything they were a part of in the last year. When you're growing quickly, it's often hard to recognize the immense amount of work you've done day-to-day, week-to-week. A little pause at the end of the year gives your team time to think about how far you've come together--and how far you can still go.