Why does 90 day planning work?

1)We overestimate what can be done in a year.

We set unrealistic goals. As a result of setting unrealistic goals, we start feeling very bad about goal-setting. Lots of people feel stressed, anxious, pressured, and really don’t enjoy the thought of setting goals for the next twelve months. My question is, why do we bother setting annual goals at all? I actually think setting goals for the whole of the twelve month period can be really counter-productive. You set the goal for a year. You start really enthusiastically, because you’ve overestimated what can be done in a year. Suddenly, you’re struggling. You’re behind. You’re not dong work you thought you were going to do in the year. The goals start becoming a millstone around your neck. A lot of them don’t get completed, and you feel a sense of failure. It’s no wonder you feel stressed, anxious, pressured the next time you come around to thinking about setting annual goals. I’m not setting annual goals for 2016

2) There’s always one thing to focus on

At any point in time, I think there’s usually one “big thing”. One thing that if you do it can really help take your business forward. There’s one thing that can unlock a lot of other things, and can take you to the next level. Intuitively, you usually know what that is. My approach is to say next ninety days, what’s the one thing that I really should be focusing for? Set that. Plan it. Don’t equate a lot of detail, and produce a plan on a page that will tell you how you get to that one thing in ninety days. That plan on the page has got to include the who, the what, the where, and the how. It’s got to give you some metrics that tell you are you doing this properly? Build in some feedback, and generally help you get to the state that you want to be in in ninety days time. Ninety days also lets you respond to feedback.

​3) 90 day planning allows you to respond to feedback

You can sit down now and think about what it is you want to do. What do you want to do over the next twelve months? It’s not necessarily what your customer, your audience actually wants. I believe that all the time you should be asking your customer what they want. Testing things with them. If they test, you’ve got to be able to respond to that feedback. Why plan more than ninety days ahead? If you do something, if you build that next product, if you release that product, is it what the customer wanted? Do you need to refine that? Do you need to say, “Okay, customer, you’ve seen this one. You like it. You used it. What would you like next? What’s the next problem you want to be solved?” 365 day planning doesn’t let you do that. 90 day planning does. You can take the next 90 days and respond straight away to that customer feedback.

4) The pace of change

​When I worked in industry and worked with big corporates on their budget process, we actually went beyond budgeting, and said look, “Traditional budgeting just doesn’t work.” Too much happens. Too many things change. The world moves too fast these days to sit down in August and September and set a budget for the year starting January through to next December. You really don’t know in August of year one what’s going to be happening in December of year two. Our beyond budgeting advice always recommended plan a quarter at a time. Yes, you might have a forecast for the year, but you go back and you review it every quarter, because you can really only see what’s immediately in front of you. You’ve got to be prepared to reevaluate, do things better, and it lets you adapt and be flexible. Why that same principle shouldn’t apply to the small business, the entrepreneur? It’s exactly the same thing.

​Classic example, last year we saw Periscope take off in the middle of the year. Loads of people suddenly changed plan in order to adopt it. We’ve got to be open to technology that is moving so fast. 90 day planning gives us agility and lets us respond to change.

5) Creativity

The final reason is creativity. I tend to follow my curiosity. I think that’s the main way people learn. I’ll be curious about something or I want to find out if it works, how to do it, and whatever. Quite often, what I’m doing in the next 90 days really relates to what I’ve become curious about. I’ve got no idea what I’m going to be curious about in six months time, what’s going to get my attention, what’s the latest new thing. I’m not suggesting that we chase after every new thing because its there, I know all the traps of “shiny object syndrome”. We’ve got to have a sense of direction. ​If I don’t know what I’m going to be curious about that might take my business forward in six months time, why would I sit in December planning out my goals for the whole of 2016? It’s just silly.

I’ve got no idea whatever about what that “big thing” is going to be July. Simple answer. Plan for 90 days. Put a detailed plan on a page. Go execute. In 90 days time, come back, re-plan for the next 90 days, and move forward. 90 day planning works!