Plan for the year ahead: Getting Into Gear
How did last year go for you? Did you achieve the milestones that you set for yourself? Was it chaotic and busy? Or was it all plain sailing, like straight cruising on Easy Street? However the last 12 months have been, one thing is for certain: you need to plan for the year ahead.
Overture to Organisation
If you’re running a business, site, project, or leading any type of business, you’re unlikely to have had a completely care-free year of work; unexpected issues rear their head out of nowhere and sometimes circumstances out of your control conspire against you to make life difficult. That’s why it’s crucial to make a plan for the year ahead, in order to predict and account for the issues and simple headaches that may occur - leaving you less stressed, and more productive throughout the year.
When you plan for the year ahead, it’s also great to give time to celebrating the wins from your previous year. If you can, replicate them and build on them - you already have a great recipe for success!
A good way to approach making a plan for the year is to consider it like any other project that requires management. We’ve already defined the scope of the project, i.e. plan for the year ahead to boost productivity, efficiency and prevent being caught out by anything unexpected, and reduce their impact. After this, it’s normally time to define your team, and consult with them to gain their insight and views.
So, in the context of creating a plan for the year ahead, it makes sense to talk to:
Staff and Employees
As the people at the sharp end of your endeavours, it makes sense to determine how their own priorities may align with and affect your own. Consider their annual leave plans, and items on their work calendar which should be accounted for.
Suppliers and Customers
Just like you, your suppliers will (or should) have a plan for the year ahead. They may be planning an extended shutdown, have supplier delays of their own at certain times of the year, or be planning organisational changes which may affect their delivery of products.
Customers too may be planning to reduce or pause productivity or have spending caps which may affect their orders from you.
If you have an accountant, speak with them to identify what may affect your cash flow, deadlines for reports and other information which may need to be submitted.
Curate Your Calendar
You can make your life easier by setting out on your calendar (or diary) known objectives, deadlines, and events that must be accounted for. These may be broken down into annual, six monthly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily reminders. Add holidays and other personal events so you’re all prepared and ready to go.
When setting out a timeline for your year, have a think also about any personal or business goals that you would like to achieve. Assign them progress and completion deadlines to help you to keep track of them.
While you’re producing your plan for the year ahead, it’s good practice to also review the factors that limited your success in the previous year. Identifying these limiting factors helps you to avoid making the same mistakes again.
Pre-empt the Pitfalls
It’s now time to dust off your crystal ball and take a deep look into it. Luckily perceiving the future is easier than you think and ties in with the planning discussed earlier in this blog.
- Start by reviewing the previous year - were there any issues that occurred that may happen again?
- Review your budget for the previous year. Does it need to change? Have you any projects or outgoings that may change, or be likely to? This will form your new budget.
- Business review - are there elements of your endeavours that require attention to prevent issues in the coming year? Consider manning requirements, site and equipment maintenance, technology, and infrastructure.
- You may be affected by influences outside your business, or personal endeavours, for example planned and surprise auditing, or plain old business competition. Make a contingency plan for these to avoid being caught out.
- Think about how you plan to fund any new developments or requirements throughout the coming year, and how you will continue to operate should times get harder. Having a card up your sleeve to pull out in the event of adversities, such as reductions in demand or even another forced lockdown, will help keep your plans on track.
- Make sure your finances are in order, ahead of time. Keep track of your cheques and balances, to make any tax submissions easier to process - and also avoid being hit by an unexpected tax bill.
How to Plan For the Year ahead, Step by Step
Here’s our quick checklist to help you be ready for the year ahead.
- Determine major events that may affect your year ahead
- Set your goals and, if possible, make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART)
- Assign timescales and a priority order for your goals
- Determine activities and objectives that need to happen in order for other goals to be fulfilled (critical paths)
- Try to anticipate any problems that may be encountered along your critical paths, and make mitigation plans
- Ask for input and feedback from other stakeholders throughout the planning stage
- Assign responsibilities and ensure anyone involved in achieving your plans knows about them!
- Define resources that you may require, for example materials, stock, people, or funding.
- Define your vision and make sure it is incorporated into your plan - you don’t want to coast along and be no further ahead than you were 12 months ago.
Over In A Flash
While it’s true that you can’t plan for everything, it makes sense to take actions that will either prevent issues from occurring, reduce the impact of potential problems - and put goals in place to repeat any previous wins.
When making your plan for the year ahead, it’s important to be thorough - you don’t want to be caught out by concerns that could have been mitigated against. Make sure you consider your endeavours holistically and consult with any and all stakeholders and other people who will have an effect on the success of the year. Do this, and you’ll have a fantastic, productive year. The next twelve months will go by in a flash - so be prepared! And if you need a hand…you know who to call.