What is a Quarterly Planning event?
Quarterly planning is an event where teams who have work that build towards a desired outcome and their stakeholders get together and discuss their plans for the next three months.
A crucial part of an operating rhythm, the concept of quarterly planning is neither new nor fixed. Even so, it’s a great tool for helping keep you on track and shape the conversation of what the product discipline is doing for the company and its customers.
Running quarterly planning isn’t particularly hard but it does require plenty of preparation. Luckily, we can put a simple checklist together, which can help get preparations started.
Why do quarterly planning?
The intent behind quarterly planning is to bring four things to the organisation:
As the phrase goes, “transparency builds trust”. Making sure that, as a product manager, you’re taking the initiative on transparency, openness and leading the conversation, is great.
Keeping all teams on track towards an outcome. Over time things change and people need to come together to get a shared understanding of the dependencies, risks and issues they face together.
- Stakeholder management
Keeping the stakeholders abreast of progress, good and bad, so that everyone knows what’s going on and informed decisions can be made.
- Reducing risk
Digital product is complex and there are a lot of moving parts. It’s the cross over between the parts that can cause the greatest cause for undue risk, so exploring that together as a group is always a useful exercise.
How to run a quarterly planning event
Preparation ahead of the event
Invite all members of the cross-functional product teams – so everyone gets is involved, and gains a common understanding of the desired outcome and teams are working towards it.
Key stakeholders – remember, many people are stakeholders at one point or another, leading to lots of people wanting to turn up to a quarterly planning session – you have to be pragmatic and only invite the people you really need.
What each team should bring
- Product Vision
- Roadmap or plan (often for 6 two-week sprints)
- Supporting artefacts, such as wireframes
What the organiser should bring
- Organisational vision
- Goals for the wider product approach and discipline
- A plan for the day
Quarterly planning schedule
Depending on how may teams there are, quarterly planning can take one or more days, but the format usually follows a similar theme:
- Present company and product visions
- Team breakouts to update plans within any new information
- Present the draft plans back to the group
- Assess any risks, issues or dependencies which may have arisen
- Team breakout to agree a final plan for the quarter
- Present final plan back to the group
- Confidence vote on the plans presented
Some useful tips
- Create a ‘Not List’, a list of things that are out of scope and won’t get done
- Create a list of orphaned ideas – things that no-one seems to own
- Create a space for people to leave feedback as the session progresses
- Get a big space with a breakout area
- Make sure the venue has walls you can use to
- Check confidence levels during the sessions
Future Quarterly Planning events
At the end of each quarterly planning, hold a retrospective, or at least get feedback from all the participants. Take a few simple actions for the next Quarterly Planning event and get started planning it straight away.
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