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  • Writer's pictureTaha Habib

A More Beautiful Plan : Annual Planning Done The Compassionate Way

THC is a firm believer that in order to have solid output, the organizations, companies, and teams need to have solid input (support, resources, time, care and compassion) — they need to have their internal needs met as well. Annual planning is an excellent practice to include teams who are going to be essential to the execution.

When we approach annual planning sessions, we propose the following activities for optimal results (time permitting!):

Norming and Forming

Let’s build a container of what is okay and what is not okay when we have heavy or challenging conversations during the planning session, especially if you are in a hierarchical structure but still want input from your teams. This activities helps us reflect on what we may need from our colleagues in order to feel seen and heard when we share our ideas.

The container puts limits to certain behaviours that can hinder honest and productive exchanges and encourages participants to hold each other accountable to our actions and reactions when someone is speaking or sharing. We take the time to circle back to the norms we all agreed on before entering each conversation that might be tough to navigate and/or potentially surface opposing ideas.

Solo Journaling

This activity is for organizations actively trying to move away from the model of hyper-productivity and valuing employee worth based on how much work they can take on. The solo journaling invites participants to reflect on how they see themselves as a contributor to the organization’s overall mission, to their team, and to their own growth journey.

We ask our participants to answer questions like:

What are some assumptions I am making about the way I show up at work?

What does being supported look like?

What are behaviours that impact me?

Calendar Colour Mapping

Let’s take a look at the year through the eyes of our teammates. Whether we are working in large multi-departmental organizations or in a small office with 5 co-workers, the nature of task division makes it that people end up working in silos. This especially happens in a fast-paced environment (we’re looking at you start-ups, grassroots, etc.) where we need to keep moving forward quickly and respond to multiple needs at once.

Colour coding how each period of the year feels to each person (ex. red for overwhelmed, orange for stressed, yellow for busy, green for slowing down, blue for time off, etc.) gives a strong visual representation of how we can change the way we plan projects to reduce the periods of overwhelming workloads. We ask ourselves questions like: What does relief look like when you’re in the red zone? What sacrifices are made when you’re in the red zone? It allows us to brainstorm how we can plan on splitting up projects, including more collaborative efforts, and readjusting timelines to better support our teams.

Work Plan Review Part 1 : Analysis

When reviewing of an existing draft of the annual plan, whether it is organizational or departmental, we ask the participants to use the perspectives gained through the other activities to critically evaluate the proposed projects.

Some things to keep in mind is to link the projects and yearly objectives back to the objectives identified in the organization’s strategic plan. Furthermore, split into mixed groups, participants are asked to review the work plan together while trying to answer the following:

What are the considerations (values, goals, mission, obstacles) we should keep in mind?

What makes sense from a capacity (time, resources, spaciousness) standpoint?

Work Plan Review Part 2: Show and Tell

It’s time for the groups to present their perspectives, questions, comments, concerns and fresh ideas to each other. It’s a great opportunity to showcase how our collective brains work at evaluating a plan from different perspectives to our peers. As a part of the container we build in the beginning, we keep ourselves open to having more questions, holding multiple truths and not pressuring each other to find solutions right away.

This exercise lets the teams regroup, and provides additional tools to tighten or loosen their plans together, and propose more capacity and resource conscious projects with key metrics and timelines for their departments that lead to achieving their overarching goals and the organization’s strategic objectives.


Teams vote, using stickers, on which major projects respond to their personal and professional goals, align with the mission of the organization and the needs of their members or audience. They have a say in the prioritization of the work which empowers them regardless of their position, or role. It fosters a sense of belonging but also encourages the active sharing of power within the organization — these kinds of decisions are not solely reserved for executives or directors, but CAN include those who will be carrying out the work.

Connect with us on our website and let’s work together on your annual plan that involves an inclusive, collaborative and capacity-informed approach.


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