A Comprehensive Guide to Monthly Planning

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We are all aware that being busy does not equate to being productive. With monthly planning, however, you can go from being flat-out busy to efficiently on top of tasks. Think of growing a company like climbing Mount Everest. You can’t start this journey without figuring out how you will do it.

But many companies still don’t have a clear plan for their projects. Most of them are too busy running on the hamster wheel to step back and look at their firm from a birds-eye perspective. A monthly plan and review are particularly useful because they provide the most up-to-date snapshot of the current routines of your organization.

What is monthly planning?


Monthly planning can start with a review or regular team meeting where people talk about their tasks and scorecards and how well their teams are reaching their goals. This meeting is an opportunity for the team lead to assess current performance versus the monthly goals and subsequently create and/or update the master monthly plan.

Monthly planning is an ongoing process. Take the hint from the name – and keep it regular and relevant. The short frame of time (30 days) to set and manage goals as they happen is a key method of keeping teams agile and productive. 

 

What does the monthly planning process entail?


Planning is a must for business success. When a company has a planning process and a plan to implement, it’s easier for managers to create to-do lists to complete tasks and reach their goals. Monthly planning allows organizations to lead with the best possible resources and achieve their goals with the fewest problems.

Good leaders know that the road to success is paved with ideas and theories that don’t work and you can never be too sure how a set strategy will pan out. To optimize success, good managers will also plan for failure. This small but useful technique can help ensure a business is successful.

Here are a few other things every monthly plan should include:

  1. Understand assumptions at the beginning

A monthly plan review should always begin with a discussion of the underlying assumptions. A lot of assumptions are subject to revision. Since these assumptions are likely to evolve, they cannot form the basis of a project.

That said, assumptions determine critical decisions. You’re continually dealing with the difficulty of when to change the strategy and when to stick to it. If presumptions have shifted, the system must also adjust.

  1. Consistently assess milestones

Planning relies on critical task analysis. Critical task analysis simplifies high-priority activities. Even simple things might be challenging for some people, so a critical task analysis can help us understand how essential project tasks become milestones. Some of the most important events and review sessions can be planned ahead of time. An ideal plan has milestones and due dates for tasks. Use them to make plans for review sessions.

  1. Review performance against planned metrics

Get the most out of good monthly planning by measuring your results. Use the review meeting to share performance measures, keep track of results and find problems, opportunities and threats.

The most obvious and standard review compares the planned tasks to how well they were completed. In accounting and finance, variance is the difference between what was planned and what happened, and variance analysis looks into that difference. This is a necessary monthly procedure. Look at key financial metrics like sales, sales by product or line, direct costs, expenses, profits, the balance sheet with assets and liabilities, and the cash balance and cashflow.

Don’t forget that good leadership is needed for performance metrics, accountability and peer pressure. You want this to be about making good choices, getting things done, and working together, not threats or fear.

monthly-planning-timetrack-tips

Implement monthly planning in your team

Benefits of a monthly planning schedule


Improve your time management (and the team’s) and gain a long-term company view with monthly planning. Plus a few other key benefits:

Save time and money

With a monthly plan in place, you and your team know what to do and when to do it by. If a problem arises, it’s easy enough to track, delegate or fix on the spot. Plus, with monthly reviews, you can quickly figure out common recurring issues and take steps to correct these. You can also use your money and time wisely because you planned for monthly financial goals, sales goals, marketing goals and so on.

The end goal of any business is to make money. Tools like TimeTrack Timesheet help you plan and monitor your team’s working hours, common disruptions and overall time management skills. With this information at hand, you can easily give everyone feedback on areas of time improvement at the monthly review.

Timesheet Overview

TimeTrack Timesheet

Become a better manager

Theodore Roosevelt once said that sometimes the best thing to do is to step back and let one’s employees do their job.

If managers start to organize and control everything down to the last detail, employees will doubt their decisions and be afraid to take the lead. Instead of focusing on each little thing, spend more time overseeing the big picture (looking over the entire month).

Regular reviews stop managers from micromanaging and instead offers them a chance to give and receive feedback.

Improve communication

One of the most important planning tips is communication. Don’t assume everyone knows what to do. Set up regular quick chats to check in on projects, processes and deadlines. This kind of communication also fosters engagement and enthusiasm amongst the team. Human resource departments are always looking for ways to get employees more involved. By checking in on people often, managers can quickly gauge how interested they are in their work and encourage them to keep going.

Make year-end reviews efficient

Year-end reviews are usually very stressful for both employees and employers because they have to give difficult feedback. In reality, these reviews are not fair at all to the worker. If something is a big enough problem to talk about at the end of the year, it should have been brought up much sooner. This method helps your employees manage their emotions and allows them to schedule follow-ups and improve before it’s too late.

Achieve monthly goals by setting up timely meetings

Promptitude is one of our most important planning tips. By meeting up monthly, individuals make goal-setting easier. Each time managers review; they can talk about new goals and better ways to reach targets and objectives. Schedule monthly meetings to help keep employees on track as they work toward the company’s monthly plans. Even if the timeline doesn’t stay the same, it’s still important to include it in the review. In one study, researchers found that writing down monthly goals made people 33% more likely to reach them.

Create an efficient monthly work schedule


Work the numbers

It’s always best to begin with the numbers. How did last month go compared to what you thought would happen? How did the team manage deadlines compared to the previous month? Where there any major red flags?

The most important thing to do is look at the cashflow and cash position. Did we get the money we were supposed to? How will our cashflow be over the next few months? Financial reports can be looked at outside of a meeting, but doing so together as a team offers an opportunity to ask questions and discuss how the company makes and spends money. A company’s expansion generates positive cashflows quicker than the economy, which can be reinvested or distributed as dividends reflecting its growth trajectory.

Highlight major milestones

After looking at how the finances are doing, look at the “major milestones,” which are the big tasks the company needs to complete and the plans for the next month.

Discuss how different teams might work together on these projects and organize the specific monthly goals. Don’t be afraid to open up the floor to feedback and input from the team. Ask for and implement great ideas that will improve workflow, time management, efficiency and success. Remember that by looking over big projects every month, the idea is to stay flexible and make changes as needed. As you learn more about your customers and market, you might need to set new goals.

Align long-term goals & strategy with the monthly calendar

Next, take a look at the long-term business goals. As an established company, this doesn’t change too often. However, a new company looking for a good model might change its monthly planner strategy as they try different things.

This step of the process may be the most important for projects in their early stages. Staying up-to-date on various projects across the business is an integral part of your monthly calendar. Automate the process with TimeTrack Project Evaluations which allows you a holistic overview and perspective of projects in real-time, including costs, project hours and tasks.

Project Overview with TimeTrack

TimeTrack Project Evaluation

Discuss issues

Everyone on the team should feel comfortable enough to bring up problems or issues they’d like to discuss. This could include new opportunities, product features, possible partnerships or HR issues. Use this opportunity to be honest, transparent and open and try to find solutions and next steps for every problem.

Excellence in the details


Keep in mind that it’s impossible to run your meetings better overnight. It takes time to figure out the best way to organize oneself and the team. Only through regular monthly planning and setting up an excellent schedule can you get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Try these planning tips to set you on the right track and test TimeTrack’s numerous planning and time management features to optimize your efficiency.