8 Steps to a beautiful annual operating plan

With a complete set of templates covering the planning process, facilitation, budget summary and operating plan.

Brett Herkt - Founder & CEO @ BoardPro

An annual operating plan is a prized document – it’s the blueprint for building your organisation in any given year. You wouldn’t build a house without architectural drawings.

Unfortunately, many SME CEOs run their organisations with only a sketch of what they are building.

The guide included at the footer of this article is aimed at CEOs of commercial and not-for-profit organisations with revenues between $2M and $40M and a functioning management/leadership team (i.e., 3+ managers) who don’t have a strong track record of strategic/operational planning.

If your organisation is smaller, absorb the principles and scale down the process to suit your resources.



Like many CEOs, I have run an annual planning exercise with suboptimal results.

In my early days, it was horrible  – rushed preparation, lack of alignment, personal agendas at the board table, weak commitment, lack of diverse thinking – and I tried to create, run and contribute all at the same time!

The outcome was frustrating and poor.

The good news is that annual planning is a craft which can be mastered.



Here’s how to run a lower-stress process to produce an annual operating plan that:

  • is consistent with your purpose and vision
  • involves the wider leadership/management group
  • incorporates feedback loops
  • produces diverse business thinking
  • is financially robust
  • aligns the board and leadership team


It includes a set of ‘cheat-sheet templates’ and ‘simple guides’ for managing the process and delivering the outputs. Once completed the management team should have an agreed action programme and results to which it will willingly commit itself.



After reading the plan, you should know precisely what those involved:

  • intend to do
  • by when
  • what they need to achieve it and,
  • what are the expected results





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