Ever had deadlines sneak up on you? “Oh, yeah – end of year performance reviews are due in two weeks. And our quarterly presentation to the VP is next week.” These events are predictable, scheduled, and yet leadership teams are too often scrambling at the last minute to complete the work because the “tyranny of the urgent” has captured attention.
There is a simple solution: a simple leadership team planning calendar plus regular practice to review what’s coming in the next 2-3 months.
Build this as a simple 1-2 page document. You don’t need anything fancy, just the discipline to assemble it and update it occasionally. You can use this starter Excel template.
The planning calendar is simple: one column for each month going forward (usually at least 6-8 months out), and rows for the activities. The simpler the tool, the more likely you’ll use it.
All the work falls into these categories:
- Managing the People
- Managing the Coordinating Processes
- Specific Project Deliverables
- Milestones and Deadlines
Set aside 45 minutes to capture all the critical milestones and events that you can forecast, by month. Some examples:
- Quarterly budget review? Capture it as a milestone event and list that you need planning time in advance. Mid-year and annual performance reviews? Assign those by month, along with necessary calibration meetings.
- Promotions? When do you need to decide who to promote, and how to get the right information to HR and stakeholders.
- Big project deliverables? Add items reflecting the work and milestones for deliverables.
- Product launch? What are critical dates and blocks of work? When do you need to make sure other people’s teams are ready to work with you?
- Setting up goals and budgets for next year? Designate a planning process in October and November.
This does not need to be complex. Leave the project charters and details elsewhere – this is only enough information to help your leadership team review what’s coming over time. Anything more is wasted effort.
The planning document alone has limited value. The “secret sauce” is scheduling 15 minutes every two weeks to review it as a leadership team. You can also use this planning calendar for yourself, and look like an on-time genius, but why keep this super-effective strategy to yourself?
Add new information as you have it. Look out 2-4 months and see what’s coming – do you need to get meetings scheduled or delegate actions so that you can hit those targets on schedule? Thinking about a new initiative? What else has to be accomplished in that same timeframe? Add months as you go. More senior teams may need to look out 12-18 months.
This isn’t hard and the small discipline required pays huge dividends. Your team is much more likely to deliver quality work on time. You’ll be better at planning. The process will also help you develop the leaders under you.