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.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.