Planning is one of those things, like managing our stuff, that we all have to do. And just as there are people who can keep their closets and sock drawers in order – or so I’m told – there are people who are aces at planning and those who aren’t.
It’s my feeling that while being able to organize a sock drawer may well be an innate skill, planning is something we can all work on and improve.
Here are three hallmarks of good planning I’ve noticed:
Sequencing is key. This might seem a no-brainer at first, but bear with me. Sure, C follows B which follows A, but when you’re planning activities which require human beings to complete certain tasks and make certain decisions in order to arrive at your desired C, then you better make sure all those necessary steps are articulated and supported back in the A and B stages. If you need to have T-shirts ready for participants in a fundraiser fun run, you need to factor in artist design time, board approval and T-shirt production and distribution time so everything arrives at the finish line on time. Other projects have less evident, but no less essential sequencing and timing needs.
People doing the work must be involved in planning it. Here’s another no-brainer, but it’s one which major organizations ignore all too frequently. Those who are actually involved with carrying out a task will have the best idea how long it takes and what they’ll need to do it. Construct a timeline without them at your peril.
Blend idealism and realism. Establishing a schedule for carrying out an assortment of activities might not seem the sort of stuff of which dreams are made, but all good planners have to have a dreamy side to themselves in order to strive for the best.
And, clearly, all dreamers need to be able to plan the implementation of their dreams if they wish to bring them into the real world.
Let’s start with the idealistic nature of planning. Whether you’re planning a new product launch, a training program or a family vacation, you have to keep in mind that all the resources you asked for might not be available. Nonetheless, you need to plan big, with the aim of making whatever it is the best example of its kind. Later, you can adjust your plans in light of financial reality.
And finances aren’t the only kinds of reality-based forces which will affect your plans. Time, availability of human resources, your business environment and even office politics will all play a part here, so pay attention to them as you finalize your schemes. Then, adjust your plans in light of these factors.
Once you can implement these practices in your planning, you should see a change for the better. Then you’ll be ready to start on that sock drawer.
by Danielle Dresden