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The Benefits of Long-Term Planning

Sharing the vision
Motivation
Managing Expectations
Product
Internal Communication

17 January, 2018

Mark discusses the benefits of planning 12 months into the future.

Problem

I was faced with a problem, as my company's engineering team felt like they did not have a good plan and vision for where their team was going. This made it difficult for engineers to make day-to-day decisions in terms of how they should build products.

Actions taken

We decided to create a 12-month timeline and roadmap for the team. The most important thing when doing something like this is to ensure that every single person on the team is involved in creating the plan. This shouldn't just be something that the product manager creates by himself. The second most important thing is to recognize that the further out you get the more abstract your goals should be, and the closer you get, the more concrete they need to be. Every quarter, the entire team meets to think about where we want to be 12 months from now. Our goals are aspirational, and we assume that 12 months from then we won't actually be there, but we should be relatively close to our goals. The team takes an entire week to do this planning and we have three different meetings. The first one is completely about brainstorming. Every single team member can throw ideas on the board and talk about where they want to be 12 months from now. No idea is rejected, every idea is welcome and written down. We then leave that meeting and take time to think about it. We then have the second meeting, where we discuss which goals we think will be the most impactful if we actually achieved them 12 months from now. In our third meeting, we then break these down quarter-by-quarter and agree on what projects we will work on to get to our 12-month vision. Every quarter we will revisit our 12-month vision and will add on another three months to the end.

Lessons learned

Most teams will do three-month planning and will have to completely rethink what they're doing every three months. Our goal is to consider what we will do every 12 months and then we will know what we need to do for the next three months. This ensures that engineers know what they'll be working on long-term and they also get more excited about their projects and so are more likely to stay in your team. We also use our 12-month plan to sell our work to potential candidates. They can see what we will be working on for the next 12 months and we can show them the really big, interesting, projects we have planned.


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