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Quarterly Planning: A Guide With Best Practices (+ Free Template)

Download our free Quarterly Plan Template Download this template
Article by 
Cascade Team
  —  Published 
April 7, 2023
April 24, 2024

Your quarterly plan is not just a piece of paper, but a crucial roadmap for executing your business strategies effectively. Without a solid quarterly plan, meeting management expectations becomes a game of chance. 

In this article, we'll show you how to view quarterly planning as a powerful amplifier of successful strategy execution, rather than just a box to check off.

We'll also provide you with best practices, tips, and a free template to simplify your quarterly planning process. With the right mindset and approach, you'll not only meet management expectations but unlock your team's full potential to deliver business results.

Free Template Download our free Quarterly Plan Template Download this template

What Is Quarterly Planning?

Quarterly planning helps organizations and team leaders set short-term goals, allocate resources, and monitor progress within a three-month timeframe.

When done correctly, it should link short-term execution and long-term vision, maintain execution momentum, and ensure that teams deliver results while aligning with the business’s desired outcomes.

✅ Effective quarterly planning should serve as a signpost that keeps your strategy execution focused, flexible, and on track.

❌ Quarterly planning shouldn’t be an exercise that’s forgotten as soon as you walk out of your quarterly planning session.

Adopting the second approach can lead to unintended consequences and has hidden costs:

  • Prioritizing short-term thinking over strategic thinking:  Focusing on short-term wins prevents the business from achieving long-term sustainable success and causes misalignment at different levels of your organization. Put simply, if you focus on chasing your tail, how will you realize you’ve been running in circles?
  • Inflexibility: Quarterly plans set in stone and forgotten until the next scheduled quarterly review often result in missed opportunities. New ideas get shunted to the side, innovation becomes a dirty word, and teams repeat cycle after cycle of mediocre performance and “acceptable” growth.
  • Lost time: When a team is focused on creating a perfect plan, the minutiae of planning take precedence over outcomes. As a consequence, you spend too much time on planning instead of moving into execution ASAP and iterating as you go. Remember, adapting plans is better than missing opportunities.

📚 Recommended read: Strategy vs Execution: How to break out of the strategy planning trap

Benefits Of Quarterly Planning For Strategy Execution

As an instrument of strategy execution, quarterly planning provides several benefits, such as:

  • Strategic direction: A well-executed quarterly planning process will keep your organization focused and help everyone at all levels of the organization from the start until the end of the quarter.
  • Alignment between business goals and teams: Proper quarterly planning ensures that all team members work together towards the same objectives, that projects make strategic sense, and that quarterly goals consistently add to long-term objectives.
  • Maintained execution momentum: Quarterly planning can help maintain momentum as you progress through the year. It can be immensely helpful if you need to adapt your approach in the face of uncertainty and challenges.
  • Increased engagement and ownership: Quarterly planning meetings are an ideal way to involve team members in the planning process, increase buy-in, and boost engagement and accountability for progress.
  • Better resource allocation: Your strategic planning needs to be turned into digestible steps. This means considering your organization's business needs and capabilities. Quarterly planning makes it easier to adjust and allocate resources more effectively, ensuring that the most important initiatives receive the attention they deserve.

6 Best Practices To Get Quarterly Planning Process Right

A quarterly planning process can magnify team efforts and organizational performance when viewed as part of strategy execution. But, as you revamp your approach, consider the following tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls many businesses face:

1. Reverse-engineer your goals

This step involves working backward from your desired outcomes or the “big-picture” to create an effective quarterly strategy.

Go over the most critical strategic objectives and initiatives for the year and ensure they’re top of mind as you brainstorm for the next quarter's priorities.

For example, if the company’s annual goal is to increase revenue by 20%, start with this objective and break it down into smaller quarterly goals that align with your long-term goal. Then, assign projects, initiatives, and owners to drive accountability and progress toward results.  

📚Recommended read: The Right Way To Set Team Goals

2. Conduct a "lessons learned" review

A "lessons learned" review is a simple but powerful idea often overlooked. It may not always be fun, but learning from the wins and failures of the past quarter can be a huge asset to improving your strategy next quarter.

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you:

Want to get the most out of your lessons learned session? Combine it with Cascade’s strategy reports to benchmark your performance against set targets and KPIs, dig deep into your underlying causes for wins and failures, and identify areas to optimize in the future. You’ll be able to generate in-depth reports and give context to your data. 

report gif-1

3. Incorporate a "war game" exercise 

"War gaming" is a simulation exercise to stress test your strategy against different outcomes. It’s an excellent way to let your teams examine and try out different approaches in a no-risk environment.

For example, you can use it to assess the potential impact of a disruptive move by a competitor in the market and develop strategic responses to mitigate risks and exploit opportunities.

When you incorporate this practice into your quarterly planning, you promote cross-functional collaboration, critical thinking, and decision-making among the senior leadership team, ultimately enhancing the agility and competitive advantage of your company.

4. Encourage cross-functional collaboration

Quarterly planning should involve all departments and stakeholders in the execution of your strategy. Planning and strategizing in silos limits your goals and hampers effective execution. Foster a culture of collaboration and communication to ensure strategic alignment and buy-in for the strategy.

📽️Recommended video: How to generate alignment across teams (with Miles Wilson, Managing Director at Red Bull, and Jordan Colreavy, Head of Category Strategy at L'Oréal)

5. Adopt a "Growth" mindset

When you’re tied to a rigid quarterly plan, you’re missing out on the opportunity to adapt and adjust your strategies in response to new information and changing circumstances. Instead, you should remain open to adjusting your plans based on new information, insights, and feedback.

One way to put this into practice is to establish regular check-ins throughout the quarter to review progress and make any necessary adjustments to your strategy. Waiting until the quarterly meeting to review progress and find out something isn’t working can result in delays of up to three months, which can be detrimental to the overall success of your strategy.

Unfortunately, only 18% of team members are looking at progress weekly (according to the survey of 1,750 people), which is a shame because this can have a significant impact on the execution of your quarterly strategy. You need to keep your strategy top of mind throughout the quarter. 

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you:

With Cascade’s dashboards, you can keep your strategy execution front and center, no matter what else is going on. With real-time performance updates and customizable data visualizations, you can easily track progress, identify roadblocks, and make adjustments on the fly. No more waiting until the end of the quarter to find out that you've gone off course. With Cascade, you can stay on top of things every step of the way.

Finance KPIs dashboard in cascade

6. Measure progress against long-term business objectives

Instead of solely focusing on short-term performance in your quarterly planning, measure progress against your long-term goals to ensure progress toward your overall vision. This will help you stay focused on your long-term objectives while still achieving short-term wins.

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you: 

In Cascade, you can link short-term goals and projects with long-term strategic objectives and measure progress. You can even break down your annual plan into smaller quarterly objectives and ensure everyone is working toward common goals.

Alignment Objective Sidebar in cascade

No matter which goal-setting framework you prefer, Cascade has your back. Whether you prefer Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), Cascade model, V2MOM, Hoshin Kanri, or Balanced Scorecard, we've got you covered. But we don't stop there. 

With Cascade, you can even customize your plan to match your preferred terminology and structure. That's right, with Cascade, you call the shots. Our powerful platform works for you, not the other way around.

Free Template Download our free Quarterly Plan Template Download this template

Key Elements You Should Have In Your Quarterly Plan

A well-crafted quarterly plan that is strategy-focused should boost the impact of your team’s efforts and ensure repeatable outcomes. Therefore, it should incorporate the following two groups of elements:

High-level planning

A past performance overview: To break free from repetitive cycles, you need to understand your previous quarter's performance and identify areas for improvement.

Capability assessment: Evaluate your team's strengths and weaknesses to align them with your strategic objectives.

Company goals: Integrate your company's long-term goals into your quarterly planning to focus your efforts and contextualize priorities within the bigger picture.

Key elements in your quarterly plan

Focus areas: Identify and articulate focus areas for the quarter to bridge the gap between long-term goals and immediate objectives set for the next three months.

Quarterly objectives and goals: Define the outcomes your organization or team aims to achieve within the quarter and collaborate with your team members to set action steps to achieve them.

Metrics: Determine the quantifiable measures your organization will use to track and assess short-term and long-term performance. These can be further broken down into time-bound targets, known as measures, within each quarter.

Owners and contributors: Assign ownership to key people responsible for achieving outcomes in the upcoming quarter. Your project or initiative owners will ensure that targets are met and that there is accountability if something goes wrong. 

Timeline: Create a timeline of expected dates, dependencies, and milestones to ensure your teams understand the expectations around how the quarter should progress.  

📚Recommended read: How To Write A Strategic Plan That Gets Results + Examples

Develop Your Execution-Ready Plan With Our Quarterly Planning Template

If you want to leverage your quarterly planning as an amplifier for your strategy execution, here's how to use our template to get started:

1. Get your quarterly plan template

To get started with your quarterly planning template, click on the link below. 

👉Get your free quarterly plan template. 

Once you’ve signed up, your template will automatically be loaded on your platform workspace, ready to use. It’s as easy as that.

2. Customize your template

Next, customize your quarterly plan to fit your strategic objectives and goals.

Adjust the prefilled focus areas, goals, actions, and metrics in your quarterly plan according to your business needs. You can also modify dates, project titles, and specific initiatives to align with your goals.

3. Integrate Cascade with your data sources

With Cascade, you have two options to track your KPIs: manually and automatically

The latter option is far more efficient, as it simplifies data collection and ensures you're working with accurate and up-to-date data. 

By integrating Cascade with your favorite project management and business tools, such as Excel, Google Sheets, or your CRM, you can easily import your KPI data and keep your team in the loop. 

No more worrying about manual data entry or inaccuracies—let Cascade take care of the hard work for you.

4. Bring in your team members

Send an invite to your team members to collaborate on shared KPIs and ensure everyone is on the same page. 

With Cascade, you can assign roles and responsibilities, set up notifications, and communicate with your teams in one place.

5. Manage your quarterly performance proactively

If you want to help your organization perform at its best and achieve better outcomes, quarterly planning shouldn’t be a static set-and-forget document.

It should help you answer key questions about your execution, like:

  • Are we going in the right direction?
  • Are we still on track?
  • Do we need to adapt?
  • Are we still aligned with business goals?

Once your quarterly plan is done and ready to launch, share it with your stakeholders to bring everyone on the same page, and start using Cascade as the command center of your execution.

👉Here’s how Cascade can help you:

Speed up reporting: Leverage Strategy Reports to create concise and accurate documents about how your teams are progressing. 

Monitor what matters: Set up custom dashboards with real-time updates of relevant KPIs to keep your finger on the pulse of your execution.

Simplify complex strategic initiatives with visualizations: Utilize the Roadmap view (Gantt-style chart) to communicate priorities, monitor outcomes, and track deadlines and projects.

timeline view gif in cascade

More related templates: 

Plan And Execute Your Strategies With Cascade 🚀

Whether you want to utilize quarterly business planning as a condensed version of your annual plan or turn it into a short-term strategy execution tool, it’s completely up to you.

But shifting your mindset around quarterly planning from a goal-setting exercise to a strategy execution initiative can transform your quarterly planning process. Try it out and see for yourself.

Ready to get started? Sign up for a free account and get your quarterly plan template today

Free Template Download our free Quarterly Plan Template Download this template

FAQs About Quarterly Planning

What is the difference between quarterly and annual planning?

Quarterly planning focuses on setting goals, allocating resources, and monitoring progress over a three-month period. In contrast, annual planning encompasses the organization's high-level strategic goals and priorities for the entire year.

What is the difference between a sprint and a quarter?

A sprint is a short, time-boxed period, typically 2–4 weeks, to complete a specific set of tasks or deliverables. On the other hand, a quarter is a three-month period to set and work toward broader strategic objectives.

How do you plan a year in quarters?

To plan a year in quarters, a good start is to use a "now, near, far" framework for prioritizing goals and initiatives. This is a simple approach to identify what you’ll need to accomplish now (short-term), in the near future (medium-term), and far (distant future). 


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