Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0190, February 8, 2005 | 7,000 Subscribers..

Dear friends,

Often facilitators are called upon to support planning efforts of one kind or another. In my recent studies, I found a great overview of the planning process, content, and guidelines to make plans successful. So this week, I include an adapted version of an article by Dr. Carter McNamara entitled, "Basic Guidelines for a Successful Planning Process." I hope you find it useful.

And for a little different perspective on planning, we'll be visiting with Michael Port this Thursday, February 10th at 1:00 PM EST to discuss keys to creating remarkable projects. I found Michael's charisma and novel insights into the "inner" aspects of creating and managing winning projects very inspiring. I believe integrating these keys into your work guiding leaders in project management and planning will add an important dimension of value and a higher probability of success. See details below.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: Facilitating Project Planning

Expert Interview: Michael Port, Keys to Creating Remarkable Projects.

Self-Guided Teleclasses: Secrets to Designing Dynamic Workshops from Scratch.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


Red Cross Disaster Relief

Starts February 8th
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Group Process Skill

Facilitating Project Planning
An overview of project planning essentials.

The Point

What is Planning?

Planning is setting the direction for something -- some system -- and then working to ensure the system follows that direction. Systems have inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes defined as follows:

  • Inputs to the system include resources such as raw materials, money, technologies and people.
  • A Process is employed on these inputs to align, move, and carefully coordinate them to ultimately achieve the goals set for the system.
  • Outputs are tangible results produced by processes in the system, such as products or services for consumers.
  • Outcomes are another kind of result or benefits for consumers, e.g., jobs for workers, enhanced quality of life for customers, etc.

Start With the "End” in Mind

Whether the system is an organization, department, business, project, etc., the process of planning includes planners working backwards through the system. They start from the results (outcomes and outputs) they prefer and work backwards through the system to identify the processes needed to produce the results. Then they identify what inputs (or resources) are needed to carry out the processes.

Key Elements of a Plan

The planning process and the plan itself typically includes the definition of goals, strategies, objectives, tasks, and resources. Please note that completely accurate definitions of each of these terms are not essential. It's more important for planners to have a basic sense for the difference between goals/objectives (results) and strategies/tasks (methods to achieve the results).

  • Goals: Specific accomplishments--outputs from the system.
  • Strategies or Activities. Methods or processes required to achieve the goals--processes in the system.)
  • Objectives. Specific accomplishments necessary to achieve the goals-- usually "milestones" along the way when implementing the strategies.
  • Tasks. People are assigned various tasks required to implement the plan.
  • Resources (and Budgets). People, materials, technologies, money, etc., required to implement the strategies or processes. The costs of these resources are often depicted in the form of a budget--resources are input to the system.


Overview of Typical Planning Phases

Whether the system is an organization, department, business, project, etc., the basic planning process typically includes the following basic activities.

  • Reference Overall Singular Purpose ("Mission") or Desired Result from System. For example, during strategic planning, it's critical to reference the mission, or overall purpose, of the organization.
  • Take Stock Outside and Inside the System. For example, during strategic planning, it's important to conduct an environmental scan considering various driving forces, or major influences, that might effect the organization.
  • Analyze the Situation. For example, during strategic planning, planners often conduct a "SWOT analysis". SWOT is an acronym for considering the organization's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats faced by the organization. During this analysis, planners also can use a variety of assessments, or methods to "measure" the health of systems.
  • Establish Goals. Planners establish a set of goals that build on strengths to take advantage of opportunities, while building up weaknesses and warding off threats.
  • Establish Strategies to Reach Goals. The particular strategies or methods to reach the goals depend on matters of affordability, practicality, and efficiency.
  • Establish Objectives. Selected to be timely and indicative of progress toward goals.
  • Associate Responsibilities and Time Lines With Each Objective. Responsibilities are assigned for achieving various goals and objectives complete with deadlines.
  • Write and Communicate a Plan Document. The above information is organized and written in a document, which is distributed around the system.
  • Acknowledge Completion and Celebrate Success. This critical step is often ignored in lieu of moving on the next problem to solve or goal to pursue. Skipping this step can cultivate apathy and skepticism -- even cynicism -- in your organization. Don't skip this step.

Guidelines to Ensure Successful Planning and Implementation

A common failure in many kinds of planning is that the plan is never really implemented. Instead, all focus is on writing a plan document. Too often, the plan sits collecting dust on a shelf. Therefore, most of the following guidelines help to ensure that the planning process is carried out completely and is implemented completely -- or, deviations from the intended plan are recognized and managed accordingly.

  • Involve the Right People in the Planning Process. Get input from everyone responsible for carrying out parts of the plan
  • Write Down the Planning Information and Communicate it Widely. New managers, in particular, often forget that others don't know what these managers know, or others won't completely hear or understand what the manager wants done. Also, as plans change, it's extremely difficult to remember who is supposed to be doing what and according to which version of the plan.
  • Goals and Objectives Should Be SMARTER. SMARTER is an acronym, that is, a word composed by joining letters from different words in a phrase or set of words. In this case, a SMARTER goal or objective is:

    o Specific. "Write a paper."
    o Measurable. "Write a 30-page paper."
    o Acceptable. If you involve me in setting the goal so I can change my other commitments or modify the goal, I'm much more likely to accept pursuit of the goal.
    o Realistic. The goal won't be useful to me or others if, for example, the goal is to "Write a 30-page paper in the next 10 seconds."
    o Time frame. It'll mean more to others (particularly if they are planning to help me or guide me to reach the goal) if I specify that I will write one page a day for 30 days.
    o Extending. I might be more interested in writing a 30-page paper if the topic of the paper or the way that I write it will extend my capabilities.
    o Rewarding. I'm more inclined to write the paper if the paper will contribute to an effort in such a way that I might be rewarded for my effort.

  • Build in Accountability. Regularly Review Who's Doing What and By When?

  • Note Deviations from the Plan and Replan Accordingly. It's OK to deviate from the plan. It's a set of guidelines not rules. Notice deviations and adjust the plan accordingly.

  • Evaluate Planning Process and the Plan. Regularly collect feedback from participants. Do they agree with the planning process? If not, what don't they like and how could it be better?

  • Recurring Planning Process is at Least as Important as Plan Document. The real treasure of planning is the planning process itself where planners learn a great deal from ongoing analysis, reflection, discussion, debates and dialogue around issues and goals in the system. While documents are important, at least as important is conducting ongoing communications around them to sensitize people to understanding and following the values and behaviors suggested.

  • Nature of the Process Should Be Compatible to Nature of Planners. A prominent example of this type of potential problem is when planners don't prefer the "top down" or "bottom up", "linear" type of planning (for example, going from general to specific along the process of an environmental scan, SWOT analysis, mission/vision/values, strategies, timelines, etc.)

Adapted from "Basic Guidelines for a Successful Planning Process," by Dr. Carter McNamara.


How does this article inform your approach to facilitating planning in the groups you work with? Is there anything mentioned that struck you in particular? If so, what action is inspired?
Please send us your comments.
Facilitation Expert Series

7 Simple Rules For Producing Remarkable Projects

Keys to facilitating the design, management, and commitment to projects that inspire and surpass expectations

Attend this recorded one-hour TeleClass featuring Michael Port, Author, Speaker, and Trainer

"Just in Time" Learning

The future is uncertain therefore we can't determine a result we can only create circumstances for navigating to a result. The building of a business is the successful completion of one project after another. Join Michael Port and Steve Davis for this pre-recorded, one-hour teleclass where we discuss the following seven simple rules that will help you create circumstances, for yourself and for your clients, for navigating to remarkable projects...

How do you facilitate passion for your project?
Who do you want to work with on your next project?
What talents are you ready to showcase?
How do you develop habits of fulfilling commitments?
What do you want to learn as a result of this project?
What do you intend to create through this project?
What is your project's story?
Any questions you have about designing remarkable projects.

Plus Three Free Bonuses!

1.Why Managers Need Management Training. Article by Steven Lesser that explores and distinguishes the skills needed by managers and opposed to leaders. Directors and Managers of the future will no longer be able to rely solely on their technical expertise to show their value. They must be able to provide more than knowledge. They must be both willing and able to play a variety of roles within an organization, regularly and effectively.

2. Basic Guidelines for a Successful Planning Process. Excellent article by Carter McNamara that includes simple guidelines for creating effective project plans, including a discussion of key elements of a plan, an overview of typical planning processes, and guidelines to assure successful planning and implementation.

3. Overview of Various Strategic Planning Models. Another article by Carter McNamara that summarizes the following strategic planning models, Basic, Issue or Goal-Based, Alignment Model, Scenario Planning, and Organic (Self-Organizing).

Click here for details and purchase information.

In the Spotlight

Secrets to Designing Dynamic Workshops from Scratch

Pre-Recorded 5-day teleclass for facilitators, trainers, and coaches.

with Steve Davis and Marion Franklin
Available in Real Audio and CD Formats

Secrets to Designing Dynamic Workshops from Scratch, 5-Day Teleclass

This class covers all the elements of workshop design using a simple, well-organized, and proven approach. This course, that you can take from the comfort of your own home or office, is for facilitators, trainers, coaches, who want to design relevant, engaging, experiential workshops for groups using a simple, proven formula that's easy to apply to any workshop topic.

Many thanks for a great experience. I received enough value before the first class to justify all of my costs – and it just kept getting better! I am now really looking forward to creating and delivering my upcoming workshop on retirement success -- can't honestly say that was true before the workshop. -- Doug Leland, Executive Coach & Retirement Specialist

Click here for full details.

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