Every year, the holiday season rolls around, and with it often comes the daunting task of annual strategic planning. Traditionally conducted in December, this practice, upon closer examination, may be less than ideal.
Let’s dive into why a rethink may be in order (aka. Why I hate this practice and your team probably does, too.)
December is holiday season, a time when employees are either on vacation or mentally preparing for festivities. The period is rife with distractions, making it challenging to focus on annual planning. Consequently, strategic initiatives and long-term goals may be rushed, rather than thoroughly considered.
Despite its portrayal as a time of joy, the holiday season can be emotionally taxing. Family pressures, feelings of loneliness, or memories of lost loved ones can complicate this time of year for many. Add these to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD affecting nearly 3 million people annually, peaks during the darker months of December and January.
Demanding tasks like annual planning during this period can exacerbate these emotional challenges, potentially leading to a decline in mental health and productivity. Moreover, this could create a pressure-cooker environment where employees feel they must suppress personal feelings for professional obligations. This approach not only undermines individual well-being, but also the creation of a supportive, empathetic workplace culture.
Frankly, many people are just trying to get through the holiday season without a blow-up with their inappropriate uncle who goes on random political rants or their crazy cousin who believes birds aren’t real. I don’t like contributing to the craziness.
By December, most are winding down and looking forward to a break. After a year of hard work, employees are often mentally and emotionally exhausted. This fatigue can negatively impact the quality of annual planning, with critical thinking and creativity suffering.
Annual planning relies on data from the current year. However, in December, this data set is incomplete. Planning without the full picture can lead to unrealistic goals or misguided strategies for the upcoming year.
The time constraints of December often result in rushed decisions. Annual planning—a comprehensive process that includes reviewing the past year’s performance, setting new goals, and developing strategies to achieve these goals—requires time. If compressed into a short timeframe, the quality of decisions may be compromised.
December annual planning leaves little room for flexibility. Once the plan is set, it becomes the roadmap for the following year. However, business environments are dynamic, and rigid plans made in December might not be adaptable enough to accommodate unforeseen changes.
Finally, it lacks intellectual honesty to believe we will get the best of people during December. Why would we want anything less when planning the important work for the next 12 months?
I am putting out this post now as we enter summer here in the northern hemisphere. These months will zip by with vacations and jam packed weekends. Before we let December sneak upon us, it’s worth reconsidering this practice given its potential drawbacks. Now would be the moment to adjust the timing or approach to annual strategic planning to improve the quality of strategic decisions and pave the way for greater success in the years to come.