Some businesses see planning as an annual activity, one that revolves around the budgeting process. Some budget-based annual planning is better than no planning, but there are several layers (windows) in planning that provide your business with a stronger framework to move successfully into the future. You can’t prepare your company for a scaled-up future 5 years down the pike with only one year of information. Have you looked at your business from multiple perspectives? Does your plan contain these 5 windows? Writer’s note: The terminology for each component here is not important. What is important is that you and your team are using the same language.

  1. Purpose – The picture window – This is the big reason why you started your business, and the overarching motivator for taking the business into the future.  It is the heart of the business.  If you have not dug deeply into your real reason for being, or if you have not taken steps for your team to understand what that purpose is, the small annoyances become bigger than they need to be. Purpose enables you to be transcendent over the daily hassles and setbacks. Purpose keeps you and your team going.
  2. BHAG – 10-30 year window – Your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal is a measurable outgrowth of the pursuit of your purpose. It is important to look through this window when planning because it provides a long term context for shorter term decisions. If you determine that in 10-30 years you want to reside on the North Pole, you’ll be more likely to steer away from decisions that take you South.
  3. 3HAG – 3 year window – This is the view that takes you into more tangible territory. It defines the key strategic thrusts of the business, and the capabilities that you need to acquire to move closer to your BHAG.
  4. Annual – This window starts to put hands and feet on the larger activities. It’s measured via SMART goals and Critical Numbers that you intend to reach. Here’s where you define your goals, your stretch goals, and prioritize among them.
  5. Quarterly – the windshield – No plan is successful if it is not implemented, and the quarterly “march” creates a rhythm that gets hands and feet working in concert on a daily basis. The quarterly march also presents opportunities to create themes, rewards, and celebrations that help to make the work fun and the goals engaging.

Notice that there are layers involved here. Quarterly actions roll up to the achievement of annual key initiatives, and the annual initiatives support the 3-year strategic thrusts of the business. What is not shown here is each individual’s accountability for a piece of the quarterly goal. So it gets even more granular than shown here. Ultimately it’s all hands on deck for the accomplishment of the company’s biggest intentions.

A communication rhythm is crucial for coordinating all of these activities, involving daily huddles, weekly and monthly department and management gatherings, and of course a quarterly update of the plan itself. Especially when your business is growing, circumstances change quickly, so your plan needs to be responsive to that. One quarter (good or bad) does not make the plan obsolete – current data is incorporated each quarter and the plan tuned.  Planning done this way is an iterative process.

You can find some free tools to use in your planning on Learn more about how you can use these tools to scale your business by reading Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. And of course, contact us at