4 steps to planning a great next quarter (Entrepreneur)

By: Zach Cutler March 23, 2016

Source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/273133

The second quarter has arrived, and it’s time to prepare your list of objectives. Ideally, companies should plan each quarter to achieve objectives that align with their annual goals. The latter, in turn, should work toward even larger three-to-five-year goals, which all tie into the big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) the business aims to reach in 10 to 30 years. That’s a lot of goals, a lot of alignment and a lot of planning to make it all work. But when everything comes together, and every decision is made with the end goal in mind, magic happens. The first step is to zoom back in and plan the quarter — which is easier said than done.

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Learn from the past.

The first thing is to look back at what the business has accomplished in the current quarter. “Before each [upcoming] quarter, go over your wins from the last three months,” advises Rich Manders, a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of FreeScale Coaching Systems. It’s crucial to understand what worked in the last quarter and what didn’t. What goals were achieved? How? Which ones should carry over into the next quarter? How will the strategy have to be adjusted? Although you may be tempted to focus only on successes, failures are just as important. Failures may be tough to swallow, but they need to be evaluated, so the team can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Personally, I find that the greatest successes are usually preceded by failures. So, when you are reeling from a failure, don’t get too discouraged; try to remember that this low may lead you to a great high!

  1. Prioritize your goals.

Using the past quarter as a guide, start planning the upcoming one by determining which goals will take priority. This can be done as a companywide or executive-team exercise — whichever fits the company size and culture. Start by making a list of everything the company should work to achieve. Then, go through the list and organize these objectives as first, second or third priorities. Next, assign each priority to a specific person. This person is responsible for accomplishing that task or objective by the end of the next quarter.

  1. Establish accountability.

To hold each “goal owner” accountable, create a weekly breakdown of how his or her goal will be achieved. For example, say “John” is assigned to prioritize closing 50 new deals during Q2. His weekly breakdown might look something like this:

Week one: Identify 500 new prospects.

Week two: Present prospect lists to the executive team for feedback.

Week three: Finalize the list of prospects.

Week four: Email those prospects.

Week five: Follow-up with phone calls.

And so on. Make sure each team member is assigned a priority, then track his or her progress over the course of the quarter.

  1. Measure, measure, measure.

It’s game time, and the next quarter is here!

Hold a weekly meeting with your team members to review the progress of their priorities. Make a visual chart that shows the completion percentage. In this way, everything will be clear; everyone will understand the progress that’s been made toward those goals; and early warning signs and red flags will be evident from a mile away, while there is still time to fix them.

The chart you prepare will also help team members to cheer one other on to reach their goals. “It all has to tie together with your BHAG, sandbox and three-to-five year goal,” says Manders.

Use the chart to show the connection of these priorities to the company’s larger goals, to remind everyone what they’re working toward.