“Agreement is optional; commitment is not.” 

This is Ground Rule #1 for the annual planning session, write Mark Moses, Craig Coleman, Chris Larkins, and Don Schiavone in Making Big Happen: Applying The Make Big Happen System to Grow Big.

Yesterday, we looked at how to prepare for our annual planning session. Today, we look at the specific elements of a successful meeting.

Which starts with establishing some ground rules. There will be “strong opinions in the room, and not everyone will agree with the direction that is ultimately decided upon. But once that decision is made or that direction is set, everyone needs to commit to it.  

“And if for some reason one of [our] leaders cannot in good conscience commit to it, then they need to resign.”

Strong language. But the stakes are high. A lack of commitment is a killer for any team or organization. 

Ground rule #2: Be in the room. “Yes, this is basic but bears reminding. Focus on the task at hand, not on checking your emails,” the authors write. One best practice is having all members turn off all their electronics during the meeting.

Ground rule #3: Wear two hats. Inside the annual planning session, we work both as a functional leader or expert in our particular part of the business and as an outside advisor who is charged with seeing to the overall success of the entity.

Ground rule #4: Do not leave it unsaid. Play hard. Of course, be respectful, but everyone needs to be intentional about sharing our perspectives. And if we happen to be on the receiving end of some feedback or pushback, “Do not get defensive. Receive it in the spirit of which it is delivered–everyone is trying to get to the best outcome,” the authors note.

Ground rule #5: Follow the three Cs of communication. Be clear, concise, and compelling. Dialogue. Not monologues.

Ground rule #6: No “rabbit chasing.” Make the main thing the main thing. Keep a “parking lot” or issues or topics that come up so we can stay focused on the critical business: preparing to have the best year of our professional lives.

Within the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), the annual planning meeting is two days. Day one is dedicated to team building, reviewing the prior year’s successes and shortfalls, and preparing or reviewing the company’s vision. Day two is dedicated to outlining the annual and Q1 plans. 

A best practice is to start with an exercise or two to warm up the room. One ice-breaker we use as part of EOS is to go around the room and have everyone share three business “greats” from the prior year, one personal great, and one unexpected best.  

The “Stop-Start-Continue” exercise is another exercise that can be utilized later in the meeting to generate engagement and authenticity. As part of our EOS annual planning session, we have each member of the leadership team write down and share the “one thing I most admire or appreciate about” each member of the team along with the “one thing I need you to stop or start for the greater good of the team.”

After everyone has shared, each leadership team member reviews the insights and selects either one thing to work on in the coming year (EOS).

In Making Big Happen, the authors suggest an alternate version of the exercise. They recommend distributing the questions in advance and having each leadership team member prepare and share:

1: The top three activities I will stop doing that are not leading to the outcomes we want.

2: The top three activities I will start doing that will have a massive impact on the business.

3: The top three activities I will continue doing because they impact the business the most.  

More tomorrow!


Reflection: What do I need to stop, start, and continue doing to optimize my performance?

Action: Journal about my answers. Then, put them into practice.

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