The Secrets to Successful Planning
I am continuing my team building discussions with a client and explained that teamwork is what makes a team work effectively together as a unit. It also helps team members feel happy, productive and fulfilled as individuals. As the team’s leader, encouraging teamwork is one of the most important things you can do to help accomplish the goals of your team and organization.
The following list contains signs that can be seen when a team is working effectively:
- Communicate openly and frankly with each other, both giving and receiving feedback
- Can compete and co-operate at appropriate times
- Are committed to quality and achieving goals
- Support other team members and the team itself
- Share responsibility for solving problems and making decisions
- Support the leader
Planning is all about deciding what needs to be done, by whom and by when, in order to meet an objective or a given responsibility.
Or, put another way, it is about plotting a way to get to where you want to be and making adjustments along the way as they are needed.
Effective time spent up front on planning usually means less wasted time and effort spent on monitoring whether the project is working and on remedying any shortcomings.
Remember, in order to produce a quality product, which is of paramount importance, it is essential to take the time necessary to guarantee that we can actually achieve it. Planning therefore enables you to focus on what needs to be achieved.
By breaking this down into logical steps you can then:
- Allocate and obtain resources, both internally and externally
- Prepare for contingencies
- Monitor progress against plans
- Take prompt action on any variance
- Evaluate performance and develop better plans for the future
Of course, planning can never guarantee success. You must plan and try to stick to that plan, and yet be flexible enough to recognize when it will not work and be willing to change it. A plan after all is only a detailed guide with signposts. It does not solve problems, but it can provide a framework for dealing with them should they arise.
The author Lewis Carroll once said ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will get you there.’ So when planning you must have a clear understanding of exactly what it is you are trying to achieve.
What is your objective?
Other criteria which must be specific and clear, include:
- What standards are expected (quality, cost, volume)?
- What resources will be available, internal and external?
- What constraints are there?
- How long have you got?
- Are there any other variables that you need to be aware of, for example the environment or situations that may affect the plan?
You must always remember that the plan will be implemented by people:
- Who is available?
- What skills/knowledge do they have?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- Is any training required
Once you know what information or help you need you can then think about who or where you will get it from.
How to Plan
As we have just said the Planning process begins with the clarification of the objective it is important to understand exactly what is to be achieved.
It is also important to understand any constraints within which you have to work.
A large complex objective may be broken down into smaller tasks which can be then allocated to members of your team accordingly to their skills and strengths.
The order or sequence in which the tasks will be carried out then needs to be determined to give a logical flow.
Some tasks may be dependent on others for their completion and it is important that this is identified and highlighted. So last step is to draw up a detailed plan of what is to happen.
This allows everyone in the team to see what is required and allows everyone involved to measure progress once the plan is underway.
Implementing the Plan
The implementation process involves a number of responsibilities including:
- Controlling, monitoring and taking corrective action
- Seeking/providing feedback
- Reviewing/evaluating performance and results
As the plan will be implemented by people, it is vital that they are briefed accordingly. They will need to know what the overall plan is:
- The big picture
- What their role is within the plan
- Outcome expected of them
- Specific targets
This is the key activity during implementation:
- Are standards being maintained?
- Are things going according to plan?
- Are people working well together?
- Are you on time?
- Do you need to take corrective action/modify the plan?
Feedback is vital so that individuals in the team know how things are going and how they as individuals are contributing to the achievement of the objective.
To be effective, however, feedback must be handled properly.
The objective is to learn as much as possible from what has happened to improve performance on future tasks. The review should be based on analyzing in detail what went well and what did not go so well. It is important to be honest and admit mistakes for the review to be of value. It is equally important to develop a strategy for maintaining the good things as well as improving the bad.
Planning Tools and Techniques
There are many tools and techniques that can be used to aid and simplify the planning process.
- Flow charts
- ‘To Do’ lists
- Schedule charts