Each year, as you get ready to publish the next year's plan, schedule the plan review meetings. Use some regular meeting schedule, such as the third or fourth Thursday of every month. All the managers committed to the plan will know about the schedule ahead of time, so there are few reasons to miss a meeting.
Some excuses will come up. There will be events like trade shows or client events that some managers have to attend. However, with a preplanned schedule for review meetings, these problems won't happen that often.
If your planning process includes a good plan — with specific responsibilities assigned, managers committed, budgets, dates, and measurability — then the review meetings become easier to manage and easier to attend. The agenda of each meeting should be predetermined by the milestones coming due soon, and milestones recently due. Managers review and discuss plan vs. actual results, and explain and analyze the difference.
At Palo Alto Software, we review coordinated milestones once a week in about 20 minutes. The monthly plan vs. actual review includes financial results and other measurables — product milestones, support calls, sales events, etc. — and takes just two hours a month.
It doesn't take much time, but there is very little in management more valuable. It makes your plan a planning process.
Copyright © Timothy J. Berry, 2006. All rights reserved.