It’s that time of year again. We’re already conducting brand awareness and customer experience research to inform strategic planning for 2024. And we’re quoting projects (or pointing people to our listed prices) for budgeting for 2024 as well. 

But for ourselves we stopped annual planning last year. We weren’t very good at it. We typically met in mid-January to review our performance and update our yearly goals.  

The problem for us is that annual plans allow too long to accomplish too little. They lack a sense of urgency. 

Yet—like most organizations—on the software development side we have been using agile development, regularly re-prioritizing plans and integrating client feedback. 

12-week-yearBut it never occurred to us to switch to agile strategic planning until I discovered Brian Moran and Michael Lennington’s book The 12-Week Year while browsing at Barnes & Noble. 

The fundamental premise of The 12-Week Year is that each quarter is like a year, each week is like a month, and each day is like a week. And, as with agile development, you meet regularly—in this case weekly, to review progress and identify roadblocks. Suddenly you’re not letting the strategy move to the backburner. It’s on the frontburner—and needs to be constantly tended. There’s a fierce urgency to making progress. You’re blocking time every week to advance your strategic goals. 

Obviously there’s more to it than that, and I encourage you to buy the book, and use it next quarter! 

But it lit a fire under us and accelerated our execution of strategic goals.  

Rather than an annual planning “event,” strategic thinking becomes a regular management habit with agile strategic planning. You are forced to evaluate performance against objectives much more often and adjust course as needed. Quarterly planning leads to a more continuously improving strategy function. 

With conventional annual planning, our CAGR (compound average growth rate) from 2016 to 2020 was 1%. We had a lifestyle business, yet we didn’t want a lifestyle business. 

We switched to agile strategic planning in January 2022, and our business grew 31% last year. On a rolling 12 months basis, comparing September 2022 through August 2023 to the twelve months prior, our business grew 59%. 

Focusing more often on the big picture powers growth. Consider giving it a try: The 12-Week Year.