Improve EOS Annual Planning And Meet Annual Goals With Jeff Whittle

Properly handling your EOS® annual planning session is no easy task. No matter how you cut it. Whether your business is just now going through their first EOS annual planning session or their fifth. It’s always a time of tough conversations and easy to make missteps. The Entrepreneurial Operating System®’s approach to annual planning is as holistic as it is intense. The team focuses on everything from profit goals to team health. In essence, you leave no stone unturned in the quest to always do better next year than last.

I’ve written articles on how to best handle your EOS annual planning session. But in this article I want to bring special attention to the idea of annual goals. So much of our focus is on gets put on our EOS Rocks™ and our V/TO™ that it can be hard to give annual goals the attention they really deserve. 

In this article I’ll be taking an honest look at why and how teams fail to meet annual goals and how to use the annual planning session to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

Step 1: Be Real During The Annual Review

During the annual review section you use a check in procedure that is a bit more open than that of the quarterly session or EOS Level 10™ that you might have gotten used to. The very short version of your annual review looks like this:

  • Numbers:
    • Did we hit our revenue goal?
    • Did we hit our profit goal?
    • Did we hit our measurables?
    • Any questions or comments on why we did or didn’t hit these?
  • Annual Goals:
    • Did we achieve goal A?
    • Did we achieve goal B?
    • etc, etc
    • What is the ratio of goals met to goals not met?
    • Any questions or comments on why we did or did not achieve certain goals?

That’s the lightning round version of what it looks like. Even in that version, though, you can see how EOS annual planning is different from your standard Level 10 Meeting. We have intentionally opened the floor to discussion. Usually, when you are checking in on your EOS Rocks, to-do’s, or EOS Scorecard™, you’re intentionally kicking any questions to the EOS Issues List™. The point is to get through numbers and binary to-do’s as fast as possible, so you have time to talk about the most important Issues.

The difference is that an EOS annual planning meeting allots time for all of the critical things, and it intentionally separates Issues from questions about the annual goals.


But why?

Because an entire team of very talented people spent a year trying to achieve some very specific goals. If they achieved them, they deserve recognition. If they didn’t achieve them, the team owes it to themselves to understand exactly why. During this questions and comments section encourage the team to be very open and very honest about their experience with the annual goals. You should expect a bit of confrontation and maybe a confession or two. That’s perfectly fine. But I recommend reading some of these articles on healthy conflict management.

You can ask some questions to get the conversation started:

  •  Are we satisfied with how many of our goals we hit? 
  • We didn’t meet goal X. What caused that?
  • Was X goal too ambitious?
  • Who was responsible for goal X? What was your experience with working towards that? How could we have helped?

Whatever questions work for your team are fine. Just make sure you are encouraging and facilitating an real conversation, not just a “we’ll do better next time” conversation. If you’re working with a Certified EOS Implementer, they will likely help you through this conversation. If not, I strongly suggest you spend some time crafting a list of questions in advance of this conversation.

Step 2: Recognize Why You Fail At Annual Goals

I want to be clear. I am not going to argue that everyone fails at their goals for the same reasons. Each team has their own struggles, their own weaknesses to overcome.

However, if it is your first time holding an EOS annual planning meeting, I can probably guess what will happen. Planning to meet extremely specific goals a year down the line is an inherently difficult thing to do. First, you’re trying to predict how your company will grow, something you probably never did before using the Entrepreneurial Operating System. That’s an immensely complex task, and your first attempt is usually just an educated guess. 

You made your best guess and you went with it. The first year of using EOS, the goal isn’t truly to hit that number right on the money. Rather, the true goal is to have a target for the first time. The value isn’t the success, it’s the teamwork that comes from that first year of all rowing in the same direction.


It’s fine to guess your first time. It’s even fine to guess your second time, really. But…you probably want to be concerned if you still feel like you’re guessing in year three.  If you are, it’s time to start asking some hard questions. 

If you feel like your team has missed their EOS annual goals again and again, it’s your responsibility to find out why. List all the goals that were missed this year and the year before. Do whatever it takes to find the common thread that is causing you to miss these goals. It could be something as simple as being overly ambitions. Or, you may find that you are having to ask some very hard questions about a certain member’s performance.

Wherever that conversation leads, you need to follow. If you don’t do it during the annual planning session, you may not get another chance.

Step 3: Learn How To Set Better Goals

Sounds like a no brainer, right? Set better goals. That’s the kind of advice that is usually both followed and preceded by someone watching you fail. 

Not this time.

EOS is about improving, about progressing. And I’m a Certified EOS Implementer, which means it’s my job to help you get better at running your business on EOS. Doesn’t matter if you’re a client or not. So, here is how to actually set better goals for next year.

Start by identifying a goal you didn’t reach and why

You should have already done this during your review of the previous year. And, if you’re following my guide, you should have had a pretty intense conversation around exactly why you failed to achieve that goal. 


Put a solution in place

It sure would be nice if you could pack up and go home after recognizing that the problem exists, but that isn’t what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs see a problem and they fix it.

Once you have honestly identified the reason you failed to achieve the goal, you need to identify a solution. The solution should be process oriented and proactive. Too often I see teams try to institute reactive solutions, ones that address the failed goal specifically. You aren’t trying to make sure you never fail at that goal again. That goal is old news. You’re putting in place the tools you need to make sure goals like this get achieved in the future.

Not all of your annual goal problems will fit into a clean little box, but I like to think this post does a good job of addressing the majority of situations you will find yourself in.


Step 4: Use Rocks And Scorecards. Trust The System.

This is really the best advice I can give any team. The Entrepreneurial Operating System works. You can ask any of the 6500 successful businesses using it (as of 2018). But to experience the growth and success you are looking for, your team needs to trust the system. What’s more, they need to truly dedicate themselves to it.

Teams finishing up their first year using EOS can sometimes be demoralized. Often, they’ve failed at as many or more of the goals than they’ve achieved.  It is critical to see these failures for what they really are: progress.

Even in failing to achieve the goals your team set last year, they have succeeded in making monumental progress. Ask yourself where your team would have been if they had never tried to achieve this goal. What would have happened? Conversely, what did you achieve by trying to reach this goal?

Sure, it’s nice to put a few in the win column. And yes, you shouldn’t pat yourself on the back every time you fall short of a goal. But when you look back and realize that your failed goals have taken you farther in a year than you thought you could go in a decade, it’s time to celebrate.



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