Why Quarterly Portfolio Planning is Better Than Annual
It’s quite common for companies to handle strategic planning on an annual basis, either on the calendar year or the fiscal year, or both.
This made a lot of sense when business was more predictable and slower to change. When strategic initiatives could be mapped out in five and ten-year arcs, having an annual strategic plan worked really well.
But in today’s business environment, change occurs far too rapidly for that to work in most industries. And if your company has gone Agile, you’ve made a conscientious decision to embrace iterative, continually improving production in order to meet the needs of this faster approach to work.
Sticking to an annual strategic planning cycle simply doesn’t work anymore. A far better option is to handle strategic portfolio planning on a quarterly basis.
Planning on a 90-day cycle helps leadership account for the fact that overall business priorities can change dramatically in a very short time.
For instance, an initiative that made perfect sense in January may seem like a complete waste of time and resources in March if February saw a major competitor releasing a similar product in the same space. This kind of unexpected occurrence could require a major pivot that a long term annual strategic plan couldn’t account for.
In today’s economy, it’s not uncommon for knowledge workers to have dozens of different jobs over the course of just a few years. The chance that every individual who works for your company today will still be with you a year from now is slim to none.
While strategic plans should never be predicated completely on the value of a particular person or team, they do need to take into account the overall capabilities of the production teams responsible for carrying out the day-to-day work involved in accomplishing goals. Leadership following a quarterly portfolio plan is in a much better position to effectively gauge the current capabilities of the company’s personnel, and to have that plan remain relevant for most of its life.
Beyond the changes that are constantly happening internally, an organization needs to react to changes that are constantly occurring externally as well.
A simple example of this is the economy. Many factors that a company has no control over at all can positively or negatively affect the overall economy, and these effects can have a huge impact on the organization’s ability to carry out strategic plans.
In some cases, this means scrapping or reworking plans in order to conserve resources during lean times. Or, it may involve adjusting priorities and strategy in response to an unexpected rise in revenues. In either case, handling the strategic planning on a quarterly basis allows for these external factors to be taken into consideration and responded to nimbly rather than sticking to a longer term plan that has become less than ideal.