Too busy to plan?


photo credit: M. ALbeloushi

Quite a few CEOs I’ve spoken with recently tell me they’re too busy to add a daily huddle or a quarterly planning offsite to their schedule. This post is for those of you too busy for the full meeting rhythm we recommend (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual).

It’s likely you’re already doing a weekly meeting, even if none of the others. If so, you might want to cancel your weekly meeting. If not, ask yourself, Is our weekly meeting a waste of time? If this is all you can do at this stage, take this small step and don’t worry about the rest. Set your calendar to remind you to come back to this post in 90 days. Anyone with an effective quarterly rhythm will tell you that the investment pays off in terms of higher efficiency during the other 89 days of each quarter. If that’s not convincing, then let me again urge the small steps approach.

  • If you don’t have any quarterly priorities at all, then at least send an email around to your senior team asking them what they think the top priorities should be each quarter, then pick from what they’ve sent you and go ahead with the weekly rhythm.
  • When you’re ready to take the next step, take the senior team for a planning long lunch each quarter and set priorities that way. Have each person write possible priorities, one to an index card. Then put them all out on the table between you. You’ll quickly see duplication or clusters and can then make a decision (you don’t have a lot of time for debate after lunch, so if need be, the CEO decides).
  • The next level of time investment is a half-day planning session in the office, or better yet, in another company’s conference room near your offices. Open the session by talking about the previous quarter. Wins? Losses? What worked? What didn’t? Next, spend some time on one or two strategic areas, either from the one-page strategic plan or pick something important coming up (Should we expand into X territory? Should we pursue Y acquisition? Etc.). Use the rest of your time to hash out priorities for the coming quarter, including individual priorities for each executive in the room.
  • I’ve worked with organizations that do a 6-hour planning session. This gives you time for everything in the half-day plus time to work through at least one People or Cash exercise, or to give the overall meeting rhythms an upgrade. Unless you’re extremely disciplined about blocking out interruptions, you’re going to want this off site.
  • When you’ve convinced yourself of the value of time away together, a full-day quarterly planning off site is what you’ll want. There’s never enough time to get to everything, even with a full day, but you can do everything we talked about for the 6-hour, plus learning together. Either everyone read the same business book and then there’s a discussion during the offsite, or one person reads the book and brings a book report with handouts and discussion, or watch a short video together and discuss, anything to be in the learning mindset together.
  • You may even get to the point where you’re so dedicated to time away that you’ll have a two-day quarterly planning meeting. With this amount of time invested, you can go over multiple areas of strategy (review your entire one-page strategic plan with an eye on upgrading), fully assess all of your people and make plans to remove the C’s and retain the A’s while coaching and training the B’s, find hidden cash and/or assess together how fast you can afford to grow and leave the session with a full detailed plan for the upcoming quarter, including individual priorities and a theme.

Any of these sessions can be done on your own or benefit from the skills of an outside facilitator. If you go that route, either with me or another coach, please don’t make the mistake of drafting the agenda yourself and handing it to your facilitator as an attempt to save a few dollars. Let that professional interview you about what’s going on in the company in the weeks before the session and customize an agenda to fit your needs exactly. What I’ve outlined above is obviously quite general and will need to be customized to your exact situation. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk any of this over.


I free up entrepreneurs for greater impact. Day to day demands of your growing business will sap your energy and blunt your effectiveness. Together we can work to reduce demands by up to 80% while moving more quickly in the direction of your purpose.

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