Saturday, November 20, 2004

It's That Time of Year

The leaves are changing. It's a bit cold in the air. Thoughts are turning to loved ones far away, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas shopping. All this means that it's time for the 2005 planning cycle and financial forecast.

There is something perverse about how the biggest business rush of the year coincides at the time that people are a little more focused on family (or if you are more cynical, you could say it coincides with the biggest consumer rush of the year). And in 15 years of business at multiple companies I have found that the process is always the same.

As Thanksgiving bears down on companies, panicked messages will go out to create the first draft of the '05 plan before people start leaving for Thanksgiving vacation. That deadline will be missed and conference calls will be held with people who are on the road with their families. People will call in from the back studies of their parents or grandparents house.

The first week of December the first draft will be completed. Multiple meetings will be held where debates and arguments will rage. Analysts and product specialists with detailed information on the market will be told by executives with no segment experience that their forecasts are wrong and will finally just give them the number the forecasts should hit. A rush will be on to get the final results completed by mid-December, when people start trickling out of the office for their Christmas break. A few people will send last minute revisions and updates from the road. At least one person on the last conference call before completion will dial in from a ski resort. By the time New Years comes along a thick document will be produced that has the company's roadmap for the next 12 months. A secretary who has been with the company for decades will be asked to come in New Years eve to print and distribute the final drafts.

And by the time Groundhog Day comes along all that work will be tossed out the window and forgotten as the assumptions that were made for the next 12 months will have already been proven wrong.

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