By William Montgomery, CEO of TEN

Nothing helps move things along better than a good plan. It helps the people who have to work under the plan. It leads to better use of resources. It gets things done faster. It helps anticipate problems before they occur. It is one of the aspects of managing others that universally receives a positive response. A good plan leaves more time to do other things secure in the knowledge that things are on track and proceeding as planned.

Here are ten actions for effective planning:

1. Lay out tasks and work. Most successful projects begin with a good plan. What do I need to accomplish? What are the goals? What’s the time line? What resources will I need? How many of the resources do I control? Who controls the rest of the resources — people, funding, tools, materials, support — I need? Lay out the work from A to Z. Many people are seen as lacking a plan because they don’t write down the sequence or parts of the work and leave something out. Ask others to comment on ordering and what’s missing?

2. Set the plan. Buy a flow charting and/or project planning software. Become an expert in its use. Use the output of the software to communicate your plans to others. Use the flow charts in your presentations.

3. Set goals and measures. Nothing keeps projects on time and on budget like a goal, a plan and a measure. Set goals for the whole project and the sub-tasks. Plan for all. Set measures so you and others can track progress against the goals.

4. Manage multiple plans or aspects of big plans. Many attempts to accomplish complex plans involve managing parallel tracks or multiple tasks at the same time. It helps if you have a master plan. Good planning decreases the chances you will lose control by spreading yourself too thin.

5. Manage efficiently. Plan the budget and manage against it. Spend carefully. Have a reserve if the unanticipated comes up. Set up a funding time line so you can track ongoing expenditures against the plan.

6. Match people and tasks. People are different. They have different strengths and have differing levels of knowledge and experience. Instead of thinking of everyone as equal, think of them as different. Really equal treatment is giving people tasks to do that match their capacities.

7. Visualise the plan in process. What could go wrong? Run scenarios in your head. Think along several paths. Rank the potential problems, from highest likelihood things were to occur. Create a contingency plan for each. Pay attention to the weakest links which are usually groups or elements you have the least interface with or control over.

8. Monitor progress against the plan. How would you know if the plan is on time? Could you estimate time to completion or per cent finished at any time? Give people involved in implementation feedback as you go.

9. Find a mentor. How does that compare against what you typically do? Try to increase doing the things he/she does. Ask for feedback from people who have had to follow your pan. What did they like? What did they find difficult?

10. Get others to help. Share your ideas about the project with others, possibly the people you need to support you later. Get their input on the plan. Delegate creating the plan to people who are better at it than you are. You provide the goals and what needs to be done, and let others create the detailed plan.

William Montgomery

Through his workshops, William Montgomery has helped hundreds of organisations and schools plus thousands of people to achieve their potential. To discuss your continuous improvement requirements, please call 0117 325 2010 or send a message to mail@askten.co.uk.