We’re getting ZAPped*!

On track june 2013

*ZAP = Zingerman’s Annual Plan


It’s annual planning season here at Zingerman’s.
And so, also at ZingTrain. Our fiscal year goes from August to July and each year we spend the months of April, May, June and a bit of July working on our plans for the upcoming year. That means visions, spreadsheets, flipcharts, whiteboards, meetings, conversations, communications, collaborations … you get the idea, and a whole lot of what we call, tying out – like making sure that Zingerman’s Bakehouse is plannin’ on baking as much bread as Zingerman’s Deli is plannin’ to sell as loaves and sandwiches.

And then, at the end of each year, we have a big party.
To celebrate being done with one year and planning the next and to get revved up about new the year. We call it the ZAP Wrap – we can be corny like that. Each business presents the highlights of the previous year and their big goals for the upcoming year. The Coveted Golden Zee award (Didn’t I tell you we can be corny?) is handed out with much pomp and circumstance to the business with the best presentation – determined by popular vote. The competition is intense but friendly; the presentations are multi-media – we’ve had video, audio, skits, powerpoint, rap – it’s a pretty creative group we have here.

But let’s start at the beginning.
I want to tell you a little bit about how we do our annual planning – because it’s a pretty neat process. it’s worked for us for years and although we fine tune it every year, we think we’ve got a pretty good thing going. So much so that it might very well be the next addition to the ZingTrain curriculum.

Annual planning starts with a Vision.
Like just about everything at Zingerman’s, no matter how big or small. Each business writes their vision for the upcoming year – more accurately, we revisit and tweak the 2 year vision we wrote for our business in the previous year. We make sure we’re still in alignment with the 2020 Vision for the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. We might pump up one area or whittle down another based on what we’ve learned the previous year. We share it with our teams. We solicit input. We make changes and then away we go.

From the Vision we extract Goals.
We define a Goal as a specific way to achieve a component or aspect of our Vision. We might create more than one Goal to achieve a given component of the Vision.

For each Goal we identify Objectives.
We think of objectives as specific milestones on the way to achieving a Goal. Objectives are typically measurable. Goals can be too. Really, the most significant difference between a Goal and an Objective is the time frame. Goals span over longer timeframes than Objectives. Goals and Objectives can be of any nature – Financial, Social, Cultural, Service, Environmental, etc.

The next step is to identify Action Steps for each Objective.
Action Steps are the things we need to do to achieve the Objective, and therefore the Goal, and, finally, our Vision. Action Steps are where the rubber meets the road – each Action Step is accompanied by a start date, an end date and the name of the person/s responsible for its execution.

But wait, there’s more.
Besides, any Financial Goals, Objectives and Action Steps that we might have, we also develop our Financial Plans during these months – starting with revenue, and ending at net operating profit, we identify the numbers for each month and each revenue and expense category for the entire year.As well as other relevant measures like Capital Expenditures and Staffing Levels.

For numbers nerds like me, that is the best part of ZAP and what makes it different here at Zingerman’s, in my humble opinion, is that any revenue growth or expense reduction is driven by and ties out to the Vision, Goals and Objectives we write.

And then there’s the work.
We review our Action Steps, Objectives, Goals and Financials throughout the year in order to keep track of our progress, making updates and changes, as needed, based on emergent information and the day to day reality. While every business reviews the financials each week during our weekly staff meetings (we call them huddles, we’re an Open Book business) different businesses review their Action Steps differently – some review them  as frequently as weekly and others, like ZingTrain, find it more meaningful to review quarterly. Whatever the review mechanism, what is important is that the Annual Plan is a living breathing, frequently referenced document that drives our behavior in very real and detailed ways for the entire year!

Feeling ZAPped? We are too!
That’s months of work paraphrased in a few paragraphs. I’m happy to answer any questions that may arise. I’d be more than happy to send you more information. I sure hope it was interesting to find out how we do things here.  I’d love to find out how you do things there. Do email me (gthergaonkar AT zingermans.com) and tell me what your annual planning process looks like. In fact, you could also email me if you want to go to a ZAP Wrap someday – we love having visitors! Either way, here’s to getting an email from you soon. And a great year!

ZIngTrain On Track

Our training catalog for August 2013 – July 2014 just came back from the printers and we think it might be our best lookin’ catalog ever!
We’re so excited about it that we created a special discount code for you: GOODLOOKIN.
GOODLOOKIN gets you $250 off any seminar – as long as you register and pay before July 19th.
Speaking of good lookin’ – have you visited our website lately?
And finally, do LIKE us on Facebook. It’s in my annual plan to get more likes than Zingerman’s Coffee Company! More seriously, we post interesting things on there.