On a recent webinar, Thomas Stewart, executive director of the National Center for the Middle Market, shared the top five leadership skills that fast growing companies need most. 

These included: 

1. Setting strategic direction 
2. Driving planning and execution
3. Developing talent 
4. Communicating 
5. Delegating/empowering the team
At Rhythm Systems, we help middle market clients around the world develop their strategy, annual and quarterly plans and then provide them a system to convert those plans to weekly executive and departmental dashboards so they can keep their plan on track all year long. 

We see a lot of plans and how they play out.

As we approach annual planning season, I wanted to share a few insights on how leading mid-market firms use annual planning to improve some of the top leadership skills fast growing companies need most.

The Winning Formula
Our team has helped mid-market companies around the world create over 3,000 plans and successfully complete over 250,000 priorities.

Here’s the winning formula for an annual plan that drives expected business results.

1. Determine your long-term strategy
2. Create a 90-day plan
3. Set up a system to track your plan all year long

Many CEOs are so focused on the long-term strategy; they do not set up the firm to execute the plan successfully. 

Here are three ways to plan better so you get expected business results.

Set Strategic Direction with a Handful of High Impact Initiatives 
Most of our clients do not have a shortage of great ideas to increase revenue and profits. In fact, the problem is that they have too many great priorities to consider and not enough resources to pursue them all.

Clients that achieved the best results focused on a handful of strategic initiatives (3-5) and applied all their execution energy to these. We call these Winning Moves.

How can you pick?

1. Assign some weight to each of your winning moves.
2. Rank each one from 1-10 on how much revenue or profit they will produce in the next 3-5 years.
3. Now rank each one on your current ability to execute on them from 1-10. Do you have the talent right now or have to buy or build talent?
4. You may still need additional information to verify the rankings, but do the best you can based on what you know today and the history you have.
5. Chart this information and choose those that have highest impact along with highest capability for you to execute.

Here is an example of how we help our clients chart their winning moves.

Drive Focused Execution with a 90-Day Plan
Departments and teams need to know what they need to focus on. Do not leave them guessing. Communicating the company’s strategic direction is not enough. They need to see a clear 90-Day Action Plan for the Executive Team and Departments. Companies that skip this step have great intentions, but do not get great results.

Here are the critical elements of a strong 90-Day Plan:

1. SMART Priorities (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, with a Timeframe)
2. Milestones and an owner for each priority
3. Test to make sure you do not overload people and teams

Set Up A System to Empower Your Team and Drive Great Execution All Year Long 
Annual planning is not complete until you set your team up for success all year long. Teams do work weekly and daily. Give them direction to do their work well.

Here’s how to set up your team for success every week and every day:

1. Create weekly executive, departmental and individual dashboards to track the progress of your annual and quarterly priorities.
2. Weekly dashboards should include a few metrics to make sure that departmental and individual “day jobs” are on track and a few growth priorities to make sure you are driving the strategic growth initiatives in your annual plan.
3. Prior to weekly meetings, have each person prepare to share what is not on track and why
4. At weekly meetings, discuss what is not on track and work as a team to fix the problem quickly. The purpose of the weekly meeting is to make ADJUSTMENTS, not report on boring status reports.

Here is a link to a guide on How to Facilitate A Winning Annual Plan