Effective Annual Planning Tips For Organisations.

(Learned Over 24 years As A CEO.)

In my reading and my experience, organisations that have great leaders will also have clear vision. It is then vital to involve key leaders at various levels to participate in effective annual planning where themes and goals are set which everyone works hard to achieve. Once an effective annual planning process is learned there can be regular positive change, healthy culture and regular celebrations as the organisation gathers momentum and moves forward.

So, here are some of the keys I learned as CEO over 24 years:

Annual Planning – Keep it Simple, Make it Clear.

Leaders sitting around table doing effective annual planningCEO and Board Level

We would start our effective annual planning in June each year with a 3 day Retreat with our Board of Directors. This group focused on reviewing the big picture and setting the main themes for the coming year. It is vital that the people in this group have capacity to see the big picture clearly.

As CEO I would work on those themes and plan how to integrate them into our overall program (July – Sept). I would have some ongoing discussions in our monthly Board meetings during this period.

Department Leader Level

With our Dept Leaders, Effective Organisational Planning for the New Year would normally start in October (unless there were some obvious big picture changes that needed to be flagged earlier). We found that if we started any earlier it took their eyes off the work at hand and everybody started winding down with an end of year focus. October was perfect with Staff and Leaders towards a November review and sharing with the whole organisation.

I learned that October thru February is about: review, making adjustments, celebrating progress, rewarding achievement, re-energising for the year ahead.

Implementation – Make this as easy and as fun as possible (with whole team)

For Effective Annual Planning – Divide the  year into quarters

In Australia we work on the Calendar year because our major summer holidays are over December/January and the school and work year starts in February. In a northern hemisphere nation your first quarter is probably in September.

Ist Quarter – The aim was to get a good running start after the long summer school holidays.

We began the year with a Key Leadership Retreat on the 3rd or 4th weekend of January. Everyone who carried weight at Department level or above was invited, including some promising up and coming leaders.

Then we had a major Vision Presentation in the 2nd week of February to catch up everybody on the year ahead. We would re-present and update that which was set and shared the previous November. These presentations were always spectacular with multi-media and lots of fun and involvement.

2nd and 3rd Quarters – We found it vital to get leaders and people focused and supported to maximise results through this very productive mid-year period. If people stayed focused and worked hard then this worked well. Ideally most of the year’s targets were achieved by the end of the 3rd quarter (September).

To provide support and to maintain focus we would have:

  • Monthly Fire The Vision Leaders Meetings which were always fun, inspiring and relevant to developing as a leader.
  • Half yearly Leadership reviews at end of 2nd quarter
  • KPI reviews monthly within Departments
  • Progress review of Departments quarterly

4th Quarter – The aim was to finish strongly whilst we did annual planning and vision casting for the year ahead.

In many ways, as CEO, my year ran from June to June in order that the organisation’s year ran well from February to December.  This 4th quarter was all about reviewing the year with leaders, planning the new year, making some adjustments and celebrating.

It was always so satisfying as CEO to have the whole year ahead planned and signed off, and vision shared with leaders and membership at our Organisation’s Anniversary Celebrations in 2nd weekend of November. The effect of all this was to get people’s eyes off how tired they may feel and the end of year blues that oppress many organisations and to get them excited about next year’s opportunities. This was a key to producing momentum through into the New Year.

Group of people with wine glasses toasting their successWe then had a huge Leadership Awards Night (really an end of year party for staff and volunteers to let off steam and to be amazed at what they had achieved throughout the year) in mid December after our largest event of the year – huge Christmas community event on 2nd weekend of December.


We then went into summer mode from Mid December to end of January (school holidays). A change is as good as a holiday, they say, and it really did work for us. We encouraged our people to turn up in summer clothes, dress down, and we changed the decor and the atmosphere of the place, making  everyone feel they were on holidays at work. For those 6 weeks we took off all the intensity off achieving goals, and just celebrated who we were, while we gave many people holidays and time out and operated on a skeleton crew. Interestingly we started to have some of our best results in Dec/January after a couple of years doing this. People love variety and fun.


These are the steps I learned to follow for effective annual planning which enabled our Not-for-Profit organisation to grow from small beginnings to over 1000 local members, with 3 campuses, 40 staff, a multi-million dollar budget and strategic national and international partnerships serving tens of thousands of people each year.



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