Let’s just say that 2020 has been a “notable” year.
When conducting year-in-reviews while preparing for the coming year, try a visual approach—one that you can apply to your personal or professional life. You may even want to share this with someone you manage or a colleague on your team.
Grab a pencil and take a deep breath
Allow yourself about 20-45 minutes for the initial activity. It’s a great way to gather your thoughts when preparing a more in-depth reporting for your year-end and a great visual to accompany a presentation if you are reporting up or out.
Simply start out by grabbing a sheet of paper from your printer and a pencil for this initial “download.” You can always edit and refine later.
Orient your paper in the landscape position. And draw a horizontal line across the page. Reflecting back throughout 2020, jot down some high points and low points in relationship to the horizontal timeline. If you need help remembering, you can label the line with the months of the year and refer to your calendar to see what events took place each month.
- major events that had an impact on you, your company and/or team
- changes in company strategy or policies that had a profound effect
- shifts in profit and/or productivity
Then include context in which this timeline might be shared out to others
- opportunities that came from major events
- staffing changes due to circumstances and how that impacted the culture
- note how shifts in profit and/or productivity influenced the products or services your company/team produced or provided
Now take a moment to fine tune the placement of these high and low points and make any additional notes that will help you tell your story to yourself and others. Ask yourself what’s missing or what you would add to round out your story.
Reflecting back on the past year, for items below the line, determine what might happen again and note your lessons learned. In what ways can you dissolve or mitigate these from happening as severely again?
For items above the line, note what you would like to take with you in 2021. Choose items that are repeatable and scalable and add them to your 2021 action plan.
Allow this timeline to be a conversation piece.
Want to level up this activity?
Walk your team through the process using sticky notes (analog or virtually). After making your own timeline, share it with the team to get their insights or facilitate the process for the whole team for increased engagement.
Ways you can to use this information
Any or all of these would make a valuable contribution.
Create a year-in review to report up to leadership, for your team, or out to others. Doing so shows your leadership and possible ways forward. You could include your original drawing and/or a cleaned up version as a slide.
Partner with someone in your finance department to put some numbers to the events on your visual timeline. Providing hard data to visuals provides better understanding of the story and reality.
Submit either or both of the suggestions above to your marketing department for consideration in your organization’s annual report. It may not be used verbatim, but if the idea is adopted, along with your efforts of sharing this with others in your company, you have just positioned yourself as a go-to for institutional knowledge.
Regardless if your organization thrived under the unusual circumstances of 2020 or barely survived, this kind of reporting out and record keeping can be a valuable contribution to your organization’s operational future. Who knows, this may become a seed of an idea that may lead to other insights and inspire others to do the same. If you chose to continue to include this as an end-of year ritual, in a few years, you will have a unique collection of data that may reveal patterns and insights that inform your strategy or help tell your organization’s success story.
Heather Martinez is the Interim Director of Design and Visualization at Kadabra. She secured the unique job title and role by drawing out her ideas and sharing it with her team. She believes there is no limit to success when putting pencil to paper.