At MoFo, we plan in three key ways:
- Yearly. Setting the high-level goals, KPIs and key initiatives for the year.
- Quarterly. Gut-checks on progress. Tracking quarterly goals. Learning and adapting as we go.
- Bi-weekly. Carving that work into two-week sprints, prioritizing together each Heartbeat.
TL;DR: we’ve shipped some new tools and process to make quarterly planning simpler
We’ve gotten pretty good at yearly planning and Heartbeat planning. Recently we’ve focused on improvements to our quarterly planning and reporting process, focused on:
- Clearer quarterly goals. For each program, all in one spot: mzl.la/goals
- Shared roadmaps. The plan of record for each initiative. And a high-level roadmap across MoFo: mzl.la/plan
- Program Review. A summary of feedback and key recommendations for streamlining how we do this going forward: mzl.la/program_review_recommendations
Program Review is just one piece of how we can all do smarter quarterly planning together. More detail on that below.
Getting to smarter quarterly planning
Quarterly planning is key; it’s how we learn, course correct and align as we go. And it’s a crucial link between our high-level plan for the year, vs. the minutiae of each individual Heartbeat, where it’s easy to get lost in the weeds.
A quarter is short enough to feel real, but long enough to get something meaningful done.
At the end of each quarter, we need to:
- Report. On our progress. To each other, our Board and colleagues across Mozilla.
- Reflect. Step back. Think hard about what’s working and what isn’t. Learn and share with teammates and peers.
- Adjust. Surface key questions that emerge from that process. Make decisions in a clear and timely way. And then update the Holy Plan Of Record, so that everyone knows.
Quarterly planning problems and solutions
- Board slides. It’s been too difficult to pull the data and story we need across all programs.
- Clear quarterly goals. Hard to find for all programs, expressed in a standardized way. Focused on a small number of tight priorities — not a laundry list.
- PROBLEM: No shared planning template across programs. This makes it hard to get a birdseye view, and speak the same planning language.
- SOLUTION: Move towards a shared “Minimum Viable Plan” template for all programs going forward. Develop a shared understanding around a north star KPI, crisp quarterly goals, and key initiatives for each program. mzl.la/program_review_recommendations
- No org-wide roadmap. Planning in tiny two-week increments starts to feel myopic; we need to see further out on the horizon, across the org.
- What / why “Program Review?” This is new. It feels like we confuse ourselves with semantics here, conflating “program review” with the larger process of how to do quarterly planning in general. We need to be clearer about the goal.
- SOLUTION: We summarized key feedback and recommendations, to streamline the program review process going forward. mzl.la/program_review_recommendations
Socializing and updating the “Plan of Record” for each initiative
There are two more fundamental challenges we need to address as well.
“Where’s the Plan of Record?” mzl.la/plan
This is a crucial question for any project, community or organization. What’s the plan for ‘x?’ Where do I find it? It’s hard to get on the same page when we don’t know where that page is, or who owns it.
Until now, it’s been too hard to find the various Plans of Record at MoFo. They’re buried in a maze of etherpads, google docs and wikis.
e.g., “Where’s the go-to-market plan for Webmaker? When’s the beta release date for the app? Where’s the Clubs roadmap? How does it dovetail with the teach.moz.org roadmap? What are we doing this month to get ready for Maker Party?” etc. etc. etc.
To make that easier, we’ve linked all Plans of Record on mzl.la/plan. This will provide one-stop shopping for all key planning documents and roadmaps. It’s a single point of truth for the Plan of Record. There’s lost more to update and add, but we’re getting good feedback on it so far.
Q: “What’s the plan?” A: “You’ll find it on mzl.la/plan“
Don’t worry — you don’t need to update yet another wiki! Just keep using whatever tools or documents you’re already using; mzl.la/plan just links to or embeds your existing etherpads, google docs, wikis, spreadsheets, or whatever your team prefers to use. Just make sure they’re linked from mzl.la/plan, so that others can more easily find them.
How do we ensure key planning issues get addressed?
Our quarterly reviews will regularly surface key questions or decisions that need to get made. In Q1, our Program Review and quarterly planning process did a great job at surfacing key issues like:
- The Go-to-market plan for Webmaker. Clarity around target audience and marketing plan.
- Branding. What are the next steps and roadmap? What pain points should we solve for in Q2 and Q3?
- “Relationships KPI.” What do we need to define / roadmap / build to do this by Q3?
- Our Regional Co-ordinators strategy. And the Q2 goal we set for Clubs.
The crucial bit to optimize is: how do we ensure we’re able to discuss those issues with the right stakeholders, come to a decision, and then update the plan of record in a timely way? Going forward, program managers and program leads will need to streamline how we make use of these three groups to get that done:
- Ops. Our senior management team.
- TPS. Our distributed leadership and Heartbeat planning team.
- Working group. A RACI made up out of members of both, or whatever specific stakeholders are needed to dig in and document a proposal or update to the plan of record.
The interface and hand-off between these three units needs to be clearer. And key issues or challenges need a clear project manager and decision-maker or they won’t get done. More on that soon.
The goal: open, social, focused
Experience has taught us that simply drafting plans isn’t enough; we have to socialize those goals and plans with the people directly affected. And build shared ownership in the plan. “Working open” doesn’t work when we just chuck planning documents over a wall and hope they land in the right spot.
If there’s one thing this planning work underscores, its the fact that we probably have too many key initiatives. The holy grail for us is smarter execution and focus. We have a way to go yet — but hopefully this is a step in the right direction.