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Fortnightly gripes: 'annual planning' edition

Welcome to the Fortnightly Gripes discussion for the second half of July. Every half month, we will drop our concerns, deadends, pleas for change, etc on a selected topic. This thread will focus on: annual planning.

If you're like Atlassian, your fiscal year just ended in June. Or for many others, your fiscal year coincides with the calendar year. And still others have other ends of their financial years. Whatever the case, there's often a lot of lessons learned that can improve planning for the next cycle.

That said, I ask: what do you wish would change about the way either your current or past team has done annual planning?

Some thought starters:

  • Who should be involved in the process and who's actually involved?
  • What is the ideal point for annual planning to begin OR when should changes be made to plans? Does that match how companies actually run their planning cycles? 
  • How well do the plans that come out of annual planning actually match their original intentions?

Share how you might improve annual planning! Tell us what you're experiencing!

 


*Please remember to be respectful when responding to each other's answers. What might not be difficult for some can be extremely difficult for others. This forum is intended to provide an outlet for those experiencing respective gripes AND for members to offer support for each other.

4 comments

John M Funk Community Leader Jul 20, 2021

Although I am very much a planner, I actually hate doing annual planning. For one, I don't think there is a good way to measure or a commitment to measure whether you actually stuck to your planning from the previous year. 

That being said, I think things change too frequently to expect a plan to last all year. We talk about being "agile" but then try to plan out years in advance with other things. There seems to be a disconnect there to me. 

Plus the annual planning meetings seem to take days out of my life, and I am not sure the benefit is there at the end. 

Same with annual reviews for employees. There should be ongoing review - at least quarterly, but preferably more often than that. We do weekly one-on-ones between the team member and their team leader. Following that model, there shouldn't be "annual reviews". They seem to be a waste of time to me. 

Soapbox time and griping complete.  :-)

Like # people like this

I looooove this line, @John M Funk.

I don't think there is a good way to measure or a commitment to measure whether you actually stuck to your planning from the previous year. 

Accountability is such a common miss. In the spirit of an iterative approach, using something like OKRs can help steer plans in different directions or course-correct existing plans aren't working. But how often are those changes happening when annual plans are sometimes fully baked?

You can't see my hands up in the air, but I'm vibing on your response.

Like Stuart Capel - London likes this
Liam Green Community Leader Jul 30, 2021

I think its really important to actually engage - planning isn't just a tick box exercise, it should involve everyone and there should be regular (not annual!) reviews to ensure the plan is on track

Like # people like this

This. This^! Annual planning is not a replacement for updating plans as you go along. 

We should make laptop decals with this haha.

Like John M Funk likes this

I understand the fiscal year in Spain doesn't correspond to Atlassian's fiscal year. As Solution Partners, we are trying to get aligned as much as possible to Atlassian, including the annual planning.

Regarding your questions:

  • Who should be involved in the process, and who's involved?
    I think the people using the DACI approach is a great way to work it.
  • How well do the plans that come out of annual planning match their original intentions?
    This one is catchy. Because it also depends on how the year itself evolves. For example, according to each organization, covid kicked in: that have implied radical changes on different areas, of course. 
Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Absolutely, @Huwen Arnone -DEISER- . We're big DACI fans here. But even knowing who should be a contributor vs an approver on specific workstreams can be a bit confusing because everyone wants to be an approver when it comes to planning hahah. But yes, we definitely document clear roles or else decision-making can be confusing.

As for whether plans match, yes, anything can happen, which is why it's so important to feedback into original plans. Because as you mentioned, something like COVID can derail everything.

Like Huwen Arnone -DEISER- likes this

I recently discovered the DACI approach in the #play-of-the-month stream, and I will push to implement it in my team asap.

It's good to be aware the Approver role must be the most disputed and generates confusion. I will have that into account when implementing it; if I get to do it, of course.

Thanks for sharing your approach to this!! 😊

Thanks for the post @Christine P_ Dela Rosa .

To be very honest, I am not a firm believer of Annual Planning.

I wish to reiterate, I understand the importance and art of planning but if that needs to be done Annually then it creates a different picture altogether.

I think it's a practice that have been followed for a long time and created a belief that it's essential but I think it requires at least a thought of revision and if that is also not achievable due to different constraints(like budget, resource allocations etc.) then we must start try to initiate discussions like this to find alternatives.

I think the major issue with Annual Planning with a mind that worked previously but not checking the ground reality with changes in nature in projects. If we see something going wrong for ages due to so called annual plan and still try to stick on that as it has worked in past then the rest is just history.

I wish to hear others also on this.

Happy Friday.

Cheers

Suvradip

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Love this. I do think Annual Planning is a legacy practice and that it can use updating. You're not alone. At Atlassian, we're beginning a new process that's closer to rolling planning. It's still early days but I can report back once we have more quarters to see how this change is going.

Curious is anyone else out there has an alternative to Annual Planning.

Like Suvradip Paul likes this

Glad to hear about the rolling planning @Christine P_ Dela Rosa . I would be eager to know more.

Cheers

Suvradip

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

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