Team-based planning is something we work on with our clients at the beginning and end of the year as a top and tail activity. But what exactly is team-based planning? Who’s involved? And what are the benefits? In this post and this podcast episode we take a look.
Team-based planning is when team members come together to discuss goals and objectives, and develop a strategic plan for the next six to 12 months. (We have worked with teams planning for as much as five years out, but six to 12 months is most popular.)
In short, team-based planning is one of the best tools high performing teams use in their quest for success! There are many benefits for the organisation, for the team as a whole and every team member. It provides focus, clarity and direction for each member. And in addition, the activity itself allows your team to control their own agenda, develop a long-range view and see how they contribute to the organisation's overall goal.
Team-based planning also explores how you want to work as a team in order to get results. There are behavioural elements which include discussions around team values and purpose. Team-based planning gives the team insights, meaning and drive which create the motivation required to move forward.
How often do you see plans developed and delivered to teams from up on high with, ‘Here’s your plan for the year. Now make it happen.’ (And they wonder why there's no buy-in!) Team-based planning is entirely inclusive. It provides each and every team member with an opportunity to get involved and have a say in how they see success being achieved.
Team-based planning sessions can take a whole day or be spread out over two half days or a day and a half. We recommend trying to get as much as possible done in a single day to keep up interest and momentum. To get the most out of the session, it’s best to do some prep work first on your organisation’s initiatives. This way, you can cascade them down and discuss your team’s role in helping reach the organisation’s overall objectives.
The simple answer is ‘the whole team’. As a people manager, it’s all those who report to you, including secretarial support. We’ve seen great results from bringing in a stakeholder or joint venture partner to the team-based planning sessions. If you have a great relationship and your success and theirs is connected, invite them into the discussion and let them be involved.
We also suggest you bring in your one-up manager, though perhaps just at the beginning and end. Why not for the whole session? Well, having a manager there can change the dynamic and inhibit open communication. For example, when crafting objectives, you may feel you need some practise and you want to be your best when presenting to your superior. Coming in at the start of the session means they can provide useful context around initiatives coming through the pipeline or report something from elsewhere in the organisation. Bringing them in at the end of the session gives you the opportunity to present them with your plan, and gives them the opportunity to give you feedback.
It’s a great strategy for getting support for your plan because having seen it from the initial stages, they’ll have bought into it from inception.
We recommend doing it each year, the closer to the beginning and end of the financial or calendar year, the better. However, we've had teams do it as a kick-start or refresh at other times of the year - so all is not lost if it’s not done in January! Having new team members can present a good opportunity to come together and plan as a team.
After that, you can check in every quarter to see how you're tracking. It could be part of an agenda item or a stand-alone two-hour team session. You may want to pull out components of the plan and deep-dive a bit more at certain times. Some really effective teams we’ve worked with have all the objectives from their team-based plan as part of their regular agenda. (What else do you talk about in your team meetings if not your plan and whether or not you're on or off track?)
We've heard people say they can't plan yet as they don’t know their exact objectives over the next 6 or 12 months. But it is possible to start the planning process knowing what you know, even if it’s not everything. Yes, there may be blanks, for example, you might not know what your sales budget is. But a good place to start is to use last years’ figure and increase it by 10%. The essence of planning is about being proactive.
While team-based planning is a great for building the team dynamic the focus is on ‘real work’. Of course, you can also add fun to the planning session by including team building activities that are relevant and useful. When we go through the team planning process in our next podcast and post, we’ll step you through some examples. Plus we’ll walk you through the 10-step process we use for creating a team-based plan, including all the key components.
For now, you can click here to access a template that offers a useful prep opportunity for your team. These are key questions that team members can work on and bring to the table when it comes to creating your team-based plan. We hope you find it useful.