2021 Goal Setting: 7 Questions You Can Ask to Accurately Forecast the Year Ahead

Each year, planning annual goals comes like clockwork. Like many businesses, my team and I  reflect on what went well the year prior, which goals we achieved and followed through on, which milestones we missed and why, and then look for ways to improve in the year to come.

This year, however, is a bit different. After a year like 2020, how do you begin planning for the future?

As a founder, one of my biggest takeaways from the past nine months has been that you should be prepared for anything–even a global pandemic. Here are a handful of questions I have been asking myself lately that may help you when trying to forecast the year ahead.

1. Are we all going to commit to strategy sessions in-person together? Or all being remote and making it work?

Strategy planning for a company, especially one with many employees across different locations, is a bit of a marathon.

In the past, these sessions of ours have been in-person. But this year, things have been a bit different.

My company and I tried doing a blend this year between having some people come into the office and others tuning in remotely, and it wasn’t quite as effective as I would have liked. My suggestion would be, if you’re considering doing any strategic planning, commit to being 100 percent remote or 100 percent in-person. 

2. Who absolutely needs to be part of these strategy meetings?

Having too many cooks in the kitchen can be an issue.

After my company held our executive strategy meeting, we ended up doing smaller groups of meetings to keep different initiatives moving in a more focused way. For example, last year when we met in person, all the executives spent a whole day together. This year, we broke people into smaller groups more quickly, because especially remotely, it didn’t make sense to have everyone in every meeting.

This ended up being much more productive. 

3. What are the few key areas we want to focus on this next year?

The smaller the list, the better. If a company has too many goals, it isn’t going to make meaningful progress toward any of them. Instead, it’s in your best interest to come up with three to five key areas you want to improve, and if anything, refine down from there. 

4. Who is in charge of ensuring progress is being made in these key areas?

This is a top-down approach to goal setting.

Once you’ve established your priorities, it’s important to then put people as owners responsible for making meaningful progress. For example, one of my company’s key areas of growth in 2021 is extending brand reach and engagement. The person we put in charge of that key area is our head of marketing. This individual then has a handful of key performance indicators (KPIs) that inform whether or not things are trending in the right direction–which can be communicated both up to the executive level, and down to the team level as the year goes on.

5. How are we choosing to regularly and effectively track those KPIs?

The next question to ask is how you’re going to objectively measure progress. How does the person you’ve put in charge of that key area going to know when they’re successful?

One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make when it comes to strategic planning is they don’t spend enough time to identify how they will measure success. “Doing something better” isn’t enough. That’s vague. 

In my opinion, KPIs should be easily accessible data points that are looked at every single day.

6. What new categories can the company create? What opportunities are there to try something different?

The idea of creating new categories is extremely important in this moment in time where purchasing behaviors are changing.

When doing strategic planning for your business, don’t just think about the year ahead, but how the progress you make in the coming year can and should further you in your vision for the next decade.

7. Are people’s personal goals aligned with the goals of the company?

One of the biggest breakdowns I see in companies is when individual team members have goals that aren’t exactly aligned with the goals of the entire organization. It’s important that those in leadership positions invest the time to look at each individual’s goals and KPIs and ensure they are laddering up.

At the end of the day, a business is the sum of its parts. So it’s your responsibility to make sure those parts are working in unison.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.