Last week we looked at wrapping up the year through acknowledging individuals and organizations that in some way or form supported you. This time, I invite you to look back at the past year more broadly in order to extract lessons learned about planning versus reality. For many of us there is quite a big gap between the two in 2020, due to COVID-19 and other events. Despite the year 2020 being extraordinary in many aspects, I invite you to look back and learn from it. And to use these lessons learned when developing your focus goals and a timeline for 2021. So that looking back makes you look ahead with confidence.

Key questions

What I typically want to look at when I do this exercise for myself, is how implementation was realized compared to the planning. And to what extent I achieved my focus goals for the year.

Planning versus implementation

On the level of implementation of actions, you will want to check whether the original planning made sense in real life. Did you reserve sufficient time for tasks? Had you set aside enough staff to be engaged in the work? Were deadlines realistic? Could implementation have been smoother with a different timeline? How did external events impact planning and implementation? What went particularly well?

Achievements versus goals

Once you have a grasp of how implementation went compared to what was planned, you can dive deeper and look at your vision for the year. What did you want to achieve through the planned actions? Which of these goals have you reached, in your opinion? What unforeseen achievements do you see? What is left to be achieved still?

Effectiveness of your plan

Looking back at what you accomplished, take a moment to consider which of your actions were crucial for this? Did you need to carry out additional actions, unplanned ones, to achieve the set goals? How did external events or changes in circumstances influence actions you could or could not undertake? Could you have foreseen some of that external impact? Do you feel any of the actions implemented was not quite necessary for achieving your goals?



Relevance of your achievements

Looking at the vision you had for the year, do you feel you met your focus goals? In other words, was what you achieved priority? What external events or circumstances influenced the impact you could have? Have external circumstances changed your vision of what was needed? How and why? What do the people you serve tell you about your impact?

Assessing your actions  

Which of the actions you implemented gave you and the team the biggest sense of success? Why? What made you happy about this? What were actions that you did not enjoy? Why was that? How can you combine a happy-factor with an unenjoyable action?

Assessing your impact

Which result or impact makes you most proud? Why? For which achievement did you get most praise from the community you serve? Could you do more with this impact, expanding your reach or intensifying your programme?

Looking ahead

Extract from all the above at least three key insights for next year: a lesson learned, an action you want to do, a part of a vision for 2021, anything. But at least three. Write these on a paper and put that somewhere where you will see it regularly. Make sure to bring these issues along with you to your planning session for 2021.

Did you notice?

You do not need to follow the exact questions I share above. Maybe some other questions are more relevant to you in your context. But I would like to point out that the type of questions and the order in which I presented them are not random: I start from observing what is and was – collecting data and facts so to speak. Then I reflect on these – what does that mean? Next, I develop my personal view, my interpretation – what did I like, what not? Why? And finally, I decide how I can use the data, the meaning of the data in my context and my personal interpretations in my plans and next steps.

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