Deadly Planning Mistakes: Planning to a Calendar Year

Some planning mistakes can damage an association’s ability to grow, improve, and change with the times – planning to the calendar year is one of them.

Whether or not we’re ready to admit it, 2016 is quickly coming to an end and time is running out to meet end of year deadlines.

If there’s one lesson to take away from the turmoil of end year stress, its that appropriate project planning can make all the difference. Associations need to create strong but flexible plans in order to keep up with a constantly changing, and often uncertain playing field. A plan that empowers leaders and employees to strengthen the organization’s values and visions while allowing room for adaptation. But how can a planning process do that if its arbitrarily forced into a calendar year? Sure, structure and discipline are important factors, but we don’t need to let the calendar dictate strategy and execution.

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The Reality of December 31st

For many organizations, the majority of their execution happens in the fall due to the dreaded deadline of December 31st. But is it ideal for these projects and initiatives to have a late fall execution, and a completion date of December 31st? Of course not. Depending on the type of project, it would have made perfect sense to complete for February 15th, or April 30th, or July 1st…you get the idea. An organization’s plan should adapt to the most sensible dates for each initiative, not the other way around.

December 31st, or March 31st as a fiscal year end, is not a magic project execution date. On a stand alone basis, most projects would be better executed on any other date.


Keep December 31st Open for New Years’ Eve Parties

When you compound the problems by the fact that so many projects are being executed in late fall for a December 31st deadline, the issues are even more pronounced. There are a variety of reasons why choosing December 31st is a poor date for project deadlines:

  • It falls in between 2 major holidays; Christmas and New Year’s Day.
  • Most staff and managers would like to take some vacation time during the Christmas break.
  • Most large organizations put a freeze on system implementations for at least the last week of December.
  • Projects are competing with each other for all kinds of resources.

Alternatively, help your association create an agile planning process based on a rolling 4 or 5 quarter horizon (or a rolling 12-15 month), that way execution can happen when it makes sense.


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