A slower pace, time to reconnect with friends and family, spending more time out of doors, or finally setting off on a trip months in the planning; these are all hallmarks of the summer months.
Summer also usually indicates an organization is halfway through its fiscal year and time to start planning for next year.
A bummer? Maybe. Too nerdy? Absolutely and also the super smart way to ensure enough time to complete your planning before the year-end rush takes over.
Taking time early in the second half of the year to think about how next year’s goals should evolve is an indication of strong strategic management discipline. As the majority of the organization focuses on completing current year objectives, those in leadership positions should be turning their attention to how these objectives will evolve to continue progress against long-term goals.Unfortunately, the fall is typically when annual planning processes are launched, after the summer lull and when everyone is accelerating their pace to end the year meeting or exceeding their objectives. This year-end crunch rarely leaves enough time to explore new thinking, so its squeezed out of the annual planning process.
Not the Traditional Approach to Planning
How can you take advantage of the summer months to explore thinking for next year, so you are well prepared to update goals for the coming year? Start to renew strategic thinking now!
For me, as a young executive, starting the annual budgeting process with a review of our strategic goals and market long before budgeting seemed like a natural place to start. Little did I know it was innovative.
My naive and unorthodox approach to the corporate planning function showed up at the beginning of my first annual planning cycle. I began my process by asking for a meeting with the Director of Market Research. She came into my office at our scheduled time weighted down with three-inch binders.
I was excited to get started, and as I welcomed her to the table, I asked, “Cathy, what is our current market share?” As she crouched to take a chair, her binders dropped to the floor and stared at me.
Down on the floor carefully compiling the binders, she leaned back, stared me right in the eyes and stated: “In my 15 years in market research, no one in this office has ever asked about the market.”
I looked down at the binders to see her well-prepared justification for her budget. She had come to educate me or possibly defend her budgets!
Flabbergasted, it was my turn to confess. “Maybe I am going at this all wrong?”
Cathy smiled and said. “Or, maybe not.”
An excerpt from Strategic Focus: The Art of Strategic Thinking
These days, more and more CFOs and controllers have added a strategic thinking step to their budgeting cycle, yet they rarely prepare adequately for these discussions. They don’t provide enough time for new strategy development, nor do they schedule these discussions early enough in the budgeting cycle to take full advantage of the effort. Although the intention is good, the execution fails to produce meaningful strategic insights and rarely achieves their main goal - to create a budget to which the organization can adhere.
We recommend launching a strategic assessment step to the annual planning process in the seventh month of the fiscal year - July if you operate on a December 31st year-end. Mid-year is the perfect time to gather insights and identify potential critical strategic issues from internal stakeholders. Then there is time to rank them and conduct research so you can make a recommendation for modifying plans by the start of the budgeting process.