Why 90-Day Plans Trump Traditional Strategies in Business Success

by Sean Foster | November 10, 2023 | 90 Day PlanningStrategy, Sukuma

If you ask another SME owner if they use 90-day planning they will most likely say no they don’t. Then they will justify that it’s impossible to do so in their business (aka their business is unique), and secondly, nothing they do fits into 90-day cycles. Oh boy, how far from the truth is their thinking 🙁.

Why 90-Day Planning is Valuable

There are five main reasons why you may want to consider quarterly planning in your business, they include:

1. Enhanced Focus

Business owner increasing his focus while working in the office in front of a laptop while doing 90 day planning

90-day planning brings a heightened focus to the most value-adding, of your business operations. It encourages organizations to set clear, short-term objectives, rather than being sucked into the day-to-day demands.

Related Article: Sales: Focus Your Dialogue To Your Niche

2. Adaptability

Business team members showing adaptability in a meeting and planning their business strategy

Life is dynamic, and what works today may not work tomorrow. But if we just focus on the immediate, over time we will be a 100% reactive company. That’s not good. Alternatively, if we stick to our guns on what we said we were to do this year, we could end up being miles off course of what is really best for the business. The 90-day planning approach offers the flexibility to adapt and pivot quickly, ensuring your business stays relevant and responsive to changing market conditions.

3. Improved Accountability

Two Employees having conflict and lack of trust in front of a laptop

Accountability exists in every successful business. 90-day planning encourages the assignment of specific Outcomes and Activities to specific team members. This fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that everyone is aligned with the organization's goals. PS. This includes you as well.

Related Article: Micromanagement vs. Accountability

4. Collective Commitment

Three business team members raising hands together in showing commitment to the business planning and strategy in an office

Quarterly strategy meetings are a crucial element of 90-day planning. In fact, possibly 75% of the benefit of 90-day planning is the quarterly meeting. These meetings serve as a forum for discussing key projects, evaluating past performance, and reshaping priorities. They align the entire team, reinforcing collective commitment to the company's values and objectives.

5. Recognition and Celebration

Two Employees having conflict and lack of trust in front of a laptop

Recognizing and celebrating successes is integral to 90-day planning. It motivates employees and acknowledges exceptional contributions, which, in turn, boosts morale and enhances teamwork. You will see the benefit of this ‘celebratory’ culture playing out during both the quarterly team meetings as well as when specific Outcomes are accomplished.

What 90-Day Planning is Really About

90-day planning is not about trying to fit all your business activities into 90-day cycles. Rather, it’s about leveraging the quarterly frequency to strategically evaluate priorities and where to channel energy for the next 90 days.

How 90-Day Planning is Done

The simplest way to start quarterly planning is to break what you believe should be worked on into specific Outcomes, Projects, and Activities. In addition, assigning completion dates to each activity is vital for tracking progress and ensuring accountability.

Here’s a simple hypothetical example. XYZ Corporation sells shoes, the economy is struggling and both sales volume and profits are down. Their ingenious business coach has got them to start 90-day planning. This is their first plan:

Outcome 1: Improve the financial numbers. Require 15% profit and $10,000 free cash flow in Q1
Project 1: Identify and free up dead or slow stock
Activity 1.1: Jack to complete stock take by 15 Jan
Activity 1.2: Mary to complete the product type sales report by 20 Jan
Activity 1.3: Phil to complete promotion campaign on the best-selling shoes by 13 Jan
Activity 1.4: Phil to initiate a ‘cost plus’ campaign on dead stock for the last week of Jan
Project 2: Ruthless focus on improving profitability
Activity 2.1: Sue to complete margin contribution per customer segment by 23 Jan
Activity 2.2: Frank to complete the commission scheme by 27 Jan, to promote the $100 average client spend target
Activity 2.3: Frank to set up the company dashboard to highlight and track progress, by 27 Jan

There are other activities that will take place in XYZ during Q1. Frank and Mary are going to exhibit at a trade show, while Jack and Phil are attending a week-long course, and Sue is determined to get the office signage replaced, but none of these initiatives appear in their Q1 plan.

Hopefully, you have questioned why they don’t appear in the plan 🙂. This is simply because we want to limit what needs to be done to as few Outcomes and Activities as possible. The selected few need to be those that will have the biggest impact on driving the results we are after. The more you choose, the less you will achieve.

By regularly reviewing progress at an individual level, you can adjust focus if it has become wayward, or you could adapt the plan to changing market dynamics, and ensure that efforts remain aligned with the long-term objective of the business overall for that quarter.

Related Article: The best 90-day plans for a successful business

Real-World Examples from Leading Companies

Apple Inc.

Apple, the technology giant, embraces 90-day planning to keep its innovation on track. By setting quarterly goals for product development and marketing initiatives, Apple can adapt swiftly to changing consumer preferences and market trends.


The e-commerce giant Amazon uses 90-day planning to optimize its supply chain and logistics. Quarterly assessments allow them to fine-tune their delivery processes and enhance customer satisfaction, ultimately boosting their market position.

Procter & Gamble

A leading consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble, relies on 90-day planning to ensure the successful launch of new products. This structured approach allows them to coordinate marketing, manufacturing, and distribution efforts effectively.

A cautionary tale here. If you are thinking that these companies are not representative of yours then you are correct. They are likely to be extremely different. But if I gave you an example company of say Freddi Shoes Ltd, you equally would have thought: ‘Never heard of them!’ The best example you could have is your business. The size or type of company does not matter. 90-day planning is equally applicable to any business type or size.


In conclusion, 90-day planning offers substantial benefits for businesses, including enhanced focus, adaptability, accountability, collective commitment, and the opportunity for recognition. It is about strategically breaking down the year into manageable quarters and aligning activities to achieve short-term objectives while maintaining flexibility.

You don’t have to implement 90-day planning in your business in order to ensure success, but if you would like to perform at an above-average level, then chunking your year down into quarterly periods where everyone is focusing on what matters most, then it becomes a no-brainer decision.

Having a structure around how you create and implement your 90-day planning is why Sukuma was started. I believe in the power of this management approach so strongly that I included a free 90-day module in Sukuma for smaller businesses. All you need to do in order to take advantage of this is, well to act…..

Sean Foster

Sean Foster

Business Coach & Advisor

PS: Interested in working with me? I help in 3 ways:
[1] Work with me privately to improve your business profitability, scale your business & improve your personal and business productivity - Schedule an appointment here.
[2] Join BIG – in-person, group based coaching program. Operating from Silverdale, Auckland
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