How to Do a Mid-Year (or Quarterly) Review

We’re now halfway through the year (if you’re reading this around the time when I published it), so how are you doing? Are you on track? Behind? Ahead? While I’m highly supportive of monthly and quarterly reviews, the reality is that most businesses don’t take the time to do an extensive review that often. So, let’s start with a mid-year review since that’s where we are today (and you can easily duplicate this process for a quarterly or monthly review).

Now, in order to do a good review, there are a couple of things that need to be in place first. Obviously, you can’t do an honest evaluation if you don’t have something to measure against in the first place (i.e., you need to have a plan in place that possesses clear goals and metrics first). If your plan is too general, “Increase number of leads” that won’t help a lot since one more lead is, technically, “more leads.”

Also, inherent in the evaluation process, is the assumption that you have measurement means in place (and their results). For example, if one of your goals was to “Increase market share by 5%” how will you know if you’ve actually hit it? Note: While this may seem obvious, let me assure you it is not. Not only do most of the small businesses I know of not have measurement processes in place, they usually rely extensively on gut feel (“I think (or feel or believe or am sure) we’ve increased our market share so we’re good so far”).

Finally, a good review process assumes that you have some other brains/people in the room who are prepared for the review conversation. In other words, you don’t want people just responding off the top of their heads. For this to be a truly productive review experience, you’ll want to make sure everyone has done some prep work beforehand and has relevant data with them at the meeting (for ex. your marketing director bringing some research about a new niche opportunity that might be better than what you thought eight months ago when you were creating your plan for the year).

I. Begin With Your Plan

After setting the stage (you could be at an off-site or have a meal together or just engaging one another in some small talk to put everyone at ease), you’ll want to begin with everyone pulling out the original plan and evaluating how you’re doing against your goals and metrics.

For example, most plans have some financial metrics in place. So how are you doing on those? Are you ahead, behind or on target for your revenue numbers? Profit? EBIDTA? Etc.

In addition, most plans have some key metrics they’re tracking related to what they want to improve. Since I don’t know what yours are, here are a couple of common ones. For example, customer service scores? Number of new customers (or members)? Number of leads? Number of new products introduced? Number of new locations opened? Customer retention rate? Closing rate? Etc.

Once you finish with the quantitative part of the process, move on to your key initiatives. If you follow my prescription, you should have up to five growth accelerators and up to five constraint eliminators. How are you doing on each of them (behind, ahead or on track)?

It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses don’t pull out their plans regularly and evaluate against them. This makes no sense. So, don’t do it. Start by evaluating how you’re doing against what you said you were going to do. Remember, common sense is not common practice.

II. Dig Deeper With Evaluation Questions

The best way to get any brain engaged is with questions. So, make sure you pepper your review process with lots of questions. Here are a few to get you going.

  1. What worked? There’s nothing wrong with a little celebration.
  2. What didn’t? Or could be improved? Since no plan survives first encounter with the enemy, there should be plenty of content/answers under this question. Get them all out.
  3. What did we learn? This is one of my favorite questions. It could be a personal learning, but more importantly, it could be a corporate learning, especially from customers (for ex. “We thought our customers would want feature Q, but they really don’t care about Q. What they really want is feature Z).
  4. What could we have done differently? This is my favorite optimization question. “We may have hit our revenue target, but if we did these two things differently, we could have generated X+Y.”
  5. What assumptions did we make that were right on? And which did we make that were off? I love these twin questions because we all make assumptions when making decisions. For ex. if you’re a bank and you assume that interest rates will remain flat so you put in your plan that you’re going to develop a big campaign to promote product A, but interest rates go up instead and they kill the campaign and your profit margins, you should note that.
  6. What barriers or obstacles do you feel are holding us back from growing faster? If you’re a fan like I am of constraint theory, you’ll love this question.

III. Adjust Your Plan

In light of what you’re discussed and written down, how do you need to adjust your plan so that you’ll hit the targets you want to hit? For example

  1. Do you need to adjust any metrics? For ex. if you’re so far behind that you’ll never hit your revenue number, do you need to readjust it or not? Or, if you’re way ahead, do you need to raise your number? What good is it to hit a revenue target, if you could have hit X+Y?
  2. Do you need to adjust any of your growth accelerators or constraint eliminators … or not?
  3. Based on all your conversations, what are the key projects for this next quarter? In the case of a mid-year evaluation (assuming your fiscal year is the calendar year), you should have an extensive Q3 list of projects and a decent idea of some Q4 projects. Of course, since most of us over-estimate what we can get done in three months, several of your Q3 projects will probably get moved to Q4 (so don’t sweat that you have more Q3 projects than you do Q4, you have an entire quarter to add more :-).
  4. Do a quick calculation and make sure that if you completed all these projects they will actually deliver the results you’re looking for (see my blog post on the one question you must ask for more info about this).

IV. Don’t Forget to Assign Accountabilities

Finally, before you complete your review, make sure you go back and review each of the projects for this upcoming quarter and ensure that there’s a name and a date assigned to each one.

In other words, if one of your projects for Q3 is, “Complete API integrations with XYZ Company” make sure you write, (Molly, 8/31) next to it. Why? Because ideas that don’t have a name and a date assigned to them rarely get executed. They usually get moved from quarter to quarter. So don’t make that mistake.

Well, there you go. A simple review process that you can use to do your mid-year review (even better, if you do it on a quarterly or monthly basis). However, I am confident that if you’ll take the time to do this right,  you’ll find that the results you get quarter by quarter will more than compensate for the time it takes and you’ll quickly become a fan of the process.

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other ideas for how you like to do quarterly or mid-year reviews, make sure you add them in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by RSS or email). We’d all love to benefit from your experience!