Run a Killer Q4 Strategy Refresh & Jumpstart Your 2022 Plan

It’s the final lap. The last 100m. The finish line is approaching.

So, it’s time to finish the year strong. And finishing the year strong means you need to have a killer Q4 strategy refresh AND help prepare your organization’s plan for next year NOW. Take a minute to review your data from Q3, set clear focus for Q4, and put your sights on 2022! In this article, we’ll help you prepare to run a killer Q4 strategy refresh and jumpstart your 2022 plan.

Recap – How to Run an Awesome Strategy Refresh

We’ve covered this in a few other posts and videos–we firmly believe running quarterly strategy refreshes with rigorous consistency is what separates successful, focused teams from organizations mired with chaos. If you’re not following an agile planning cycle with monthly metric reviews and quarterly refreshes, check out our free guide to help you set up a proven agile planning cycle.

Why Run a Quarterly Refresh Now?

It’s the start of October, which means you’re in Q4 territory. Running into the holiday season without reviewing your Q3 performance and creating very clear outcomes and targets for Q4 is an easy way to lose the momentum you’ve gained through the entire year.

You don’t want all of your thoughtful strategic work to get lost among the turkey, ugly sweaters, and chaos of the holiday season. Finish the last 100 meters of this race!

How to Run a Strategy Review

Rules to Follow for Great Strategy Refreshes

As we’ve mentioned in our StategySprintTM Guide, there are several guiding rules you should follow to ensure your quarterly strategy refreshes are meaningful and keep your plan agile.

Just holding a quarterly review won’t create agility. Agility is created when you review your progress but spend most of your time focusing on what the future looks like and what you need to accomplish in the near term to get there. And, you need to refresh Key Results or Initiatives quarterly!

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Here are a few simple rules for amazing, productive quarterly strategy refreshes:

Rule #1–You’re Following a Consistent Cadence

We recommend setting a consistent weekly, monthly and quarterly cadence for your strategic planning cycle. It might look like updating results in your OKR/goal tool weekly, reviewing your business metrics monthly, and hosting your quarterly strategy refresh in every new quarter. If you need to develop your own cadence, tap into our free canvas in the StrategySprintTM guide!

Rule #2–Have a Clear Agenda to Follow Consistently

We recommend setting a clear Strategy Refresh agenda and following it with consistency. Having a consistent agenda creates clear expectations for what you’ll cover, how your team needs to prepare, and helps your team enter the room in the right headspace.

Rule #3–20% of the Time is Reviewing Performance

A common mistake we see in Strategy Refreshes is teams spending far too much time reviewing performance. It’s important to review your progress to track how things are moving, but dwelling too much on the past won’t help you create your future. Cover your data, articulate the learnings, and instead focus on what the focus needs to be next. Data adds context but shouldn’t be the bulk of your refresh.

Rule #4–80% of the Time Is Looking Forward

Strategy Refreshes should really provide your team the time to collaborate on what your focus needs to be for the next 30-90 days. You should spend the bulk of your time answering the question, “what do we need to focus on in the near term to help achieve our long-term vision of success.”

Rule #5–Create Space to Highlight Learnings

We always like to provide just a few minutes in each session for teammates to highlight learnings. They can come from successes or wins, but either way it allows your team to learn from the past to help create a better future.

Rule #6–Your Team Updates and Refreshes Key Results and Initiatives Every Quarter

This is perhaps one of the most important rules in this list! In every strategy refresh, you need to create the expectation that your team is to refresh their key results or initiatives every quarter! Everything doesn’t need to be new each quarter; in fact, many of your initiatives may carry forward into the next quarter. Use the time during your Q3 Review to think about 2022. See the next section.

Tips for Making Q4 Your Strongest Quarter

Tip #1–The Year is Not Over Yet!

It’s a tendency to skip over Q4 and start focusing on 2022. Not yet! Keep your team focused on achieving the goals that are still in motion.

Tip #2–Set Realistic Expectations

Not every goal will be 100% attained, nor should it be! Setting stretch goals at the beginning of the year sets an expectation of trial and likely some non-attainment. If your team didn’t achieve the stretch goal you set, extend it into the next year and keep the momentum moving forward. Don’t be too hard on your team for not achieving everything; instead focus on encouraging them to continue the hard work.

Tip #3– Narrow the Focus

Likely, some goals matter more than others. Narrow your team’s focus to eliminate distractions and deliver in the areas that are most important to the organization.

Tip #4–Due Dates are Important–and Arbitrary

Yes, this files in the face of goal setting best practices, but it’s true. Lead with a mindset that achievement matters, but so does progress. Follow the best practice of setting goals with dates, but don’t be afraid to extend the due date if you’re making good progress and need to achieve the goal.

Using Your Q3 Review to Jumpstart Your 2022 Plan

Close Out, Carry Forward, & Create New

During your Q3 Review, ask your team to comment on what will be concluded this year and what will continue into next year. Make this easy to remember with the three “C’s”. For every key result, goal or initiative:

  • Close Out: Close out the key result by reporting on the actual progress or metric achieved at the end of the third month.
  • Carry Forward: Determine if this key result will continue into the next quarter. If so, extend the end date to the end of the next quarter and set the desired end-of-quarter target.
  • Create New: Determine if any new key results need to be established to achieve the objective. If so, write new key results: establish the target and set the end-date for the end of the third month.

PRO-TIP –

Keep it high-level. You do not need to know the status of every goal and action for the new year. But generally, ask your department managers what they think will close out, carry forward, and what they’ll need to create for 2022.

Special Topics & Questions to Answer

You’ll also need to set aside dedicated time to brainstorm topics for your 2022 planning efforts. Sure, you could likely create a plan based on your organization’s answers to the 3 C’s. But it’s 2022, and there’s a world of macro-environmental shifts and lessons you’ve learned from 2021 you need to consider as you build your 2022 plan.

We recommend using your review to address some of these questions to help build your 2022 plan:

What lessons learned should you acknowledge and take as guidelines into next year?

Your team is a constantly learning, evolving machine! Make sure you take a minute to gather your team’s thoughts and learnings to absorb them organization-wide. Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd to glean a few learnings and sharing them is a great way to embed valuable information into the culture of your organization.

What are the big emerging trends you need to address?

2020 and 2021 brought about huge shifts in the macro environment, within communities, and disrupted many industries. What emerging trends might you need to address? We’re watching topics like inflation, the great resignation, global supply chain jam, and changing consumer behavior.

What are the most important strategic issues/challenges/opportunities we need to solve that will help or hurt us next year?

Every year presents new opportunities, challenges, and issues to address. Discuss each, and check out our guide on prioritizing opportunities and our video on strategic issues if you need more help.

A Revised Q4 Agenda

We know we said earlier to follow a standard agenda, but we’re going to bend the rules a little bit this quarter. To help your organization prep it’s 2022 plan and focus, here’s a revised Q4 refresh agenda.

Owner

Agenda Item

Time

CEO/Leader

Kickoff

5 Minutes

Objective

Strategic Priority #1
Objective #1 (objective owner reports as follows)

  • Overall progress of the objective.
  • Progress for each key result & next quarter commitments.
  • What was achieved and why?
  • What was not achieved and why?
  • What is the focus for upcoming quarter & specific targets/deliverables?

***Repeat for Each Objective.

2 Minutes Per Objective
80% Look Forward
20% Review Performance

Objective Owners

Strategic Priority #2-#X
***Repeat for each priority as noted above

2 Minutes Per Objective
80% Look Forward
20% Review Performance

CEO and Objective Owners

Preparing for 2022

  • Objective Owners-Comment on what needs to close out, carry forward, and be created.
  • Discuss learnings from the year.
  • Discuss opportunities for next year.
  • Discuss strategic issues that need to be addressed.

30-60 Minutes

CEO/Leader

Evaluation

  • What did we learn from our implementation last quarter?
  • What changes / adaptations will we make to our plan?
  • Recap company-wide OKRs/goals.

5 Minutes

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