How well do you plan?
Do your plans always work out without problems?
Would your leader agree?
“Plan for the future, because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life.”
– Mark Twain
Planning is another core competency to your effectiveness in the workplace and is the process of achieving the optimum balance of needs or demands with available resources by identifying objectives, formulating strategies to achieve them, arranging or creating the means required, and implementing, directing, and monitoring all steps in their proper sequence.
Good planning bridges the gap between where you are to where you want to be. It helps decide in advance what to do and how to do it. Planning also provides direction, reduces risk, reduces overlapping and wasteful activities, promotes innovation and creativity, sets objectives, and develops the appropriate courses of action for better decision making.
Here are a few suggestions to enhance your ability to plan.
Resolve all the “Unresolved Issues”
Unresolved Issues are any Questions, Unknowns, Issues, Concerns, Short-falls, Obstacles, or Problems that could slow or stop your progress.
To determine your Unresolved Issues, with the help of your team, answer these questions:
- What do I need to know, but don’t?
- What do I know for sure, but the answer is unsatisfactory or unacceptable to me?
- Who did this project last time and what problems did he encounter?
- What Questions, Unknowns, Concerns, Short-falls, Obstacles, and Problems could stop/delay my progress?
This is an example format to use to document all your Unresolved Issues.
Unresolved Issue List for Company Team Building Session
Who is the best guest speaker?
How pay for 27 hotel rooms?
Don’t delete anything from this list. You’ll need them later.
Any questions concerning your project, that can’t be answered, should go on your Unresolved Issues List, until the answer is known for certain and acceptable to you.
When an answer becomes available, if it’s still unacceptable (the answer is still a problem), keep the issue on your Unresolved Issues List until the answer is both known for certain and acceptable to you.
Don’t be surprised when one issue is resolved, several new issues appear. Just add them to the Unresolved Issues List, delegate them to a team member, and have him create a POA to resolve them. When the issue is resolved, notify all team members.
Working to resolve everything on the Unresolved Issues List will
dramatically increase your probability of success.
Action items (Unresolved Issues) should be stated as a one sentence question. This is done so your leader and his leader can review your list and provide you the answers or issue new guidance. Action items should be assigned to the team members who has the responsibility for the issue.
Use the Delegation Process
Delegating is far more than just asking someone to do something for you. Have you ever tried to conduct a project and wondered what else you could have done to achieve a better result? To enhance your ability to lead any project, or to assign any project, here are the four phases of the delegation process.
The first phase starts once you receive or assign a project and ends after In-Progress Review 1 (IPR 1) (around the half-way point of the time remaining). This phase includes receiving the project, conducting an initial site visit, creating a draft Plan of Action (POA), conducting research, conducting a Risk Assessment, conducting a *Backbriefing, delegating tasks, creating **Contingency Plans, providing ***Advanced Warning to team members, achieving consensus, obtaining final approval, distributing the Final POA, and conducting ****IPR 1.
*Backbriefing: Briefing you give to your leader about your Plan of Action (POA) to accomplish your leader’s objective, to enhance mutual understanding and trust by an exchange of questions/answers to identify any unmet expectations/hidden surprises.
**Contingency Plan: POA that is only executed in the event something bad happens that was anticipated like bad weather.
***Advanced Warning: Process of informing all team members of what’s coming (a heads-up) so they can add it to their calendar and start their planning.
****In-Progress Review (IPR): Synchronization meeting conducted by Project Leader with all team members present to synchronize project to ensure everything is on-schedule, everyone knows all changes, and there are no Unresolved Issues remaining that could delay or stop the project.
The second phase starts after IPR 1 and ends at IPR 2 (about 7-10 days before the project starts). This phase includes *Progress Briefings, making decisions, obtaining the resources needed, resolving problems, responding to change, promoting, conducting **Follow through, and conducting IPR 2.
*Progress Briefing: Summary of work’s progress giving the Bottom line – Up front, explaining the reasons, Unresolved Issues, and changes since last report.
**Follow through: Means checking to ensure everything gets done with everyone being informed.
The third phase starts after IPR 2 and ends a few days after the project. This phase includes conducting a final site inspection, conducting rehearsals, conducting site set-up, supervising team members to ensure the project’s objective is achieved, and conducting site clearing.
The fourth phase is conducted continuously throughout the project and is formalized using Progress Briefings, 2 IPRs and an *After-Action Review (AAR). This phase also includes measuring success, observing and documenting what happened prior to and during the project, conducting an AAR, documenting the Lessons Learned in an After-Action Report, and conducting project close-out.
*After Action Review (AAR): Professional discussion that focuses on what happened vs. what was supposed to happen, and asks: “What did we learn that can make us better next time/tomorrow?”
Here’s a Gannt Chart showing the four phases with 2-IPRs and an AAR.
Use “PREVENTIVE ACTIONS”
Preventive Actions are actions planned 30-90 days in advance of a project to identify and resolve problems early to enhance the success of a project.
This section assumes that you’re the Project Leader for an important project.
Here are the most important Preventive Actions you can use to identify and resolve all the Pre-Problems (mistakes, defects, short-falls, omissions, and errors) before they become problems.
THE PLANNING PHASE
Conduct Initial Site/Venue Inspection: Visit the site to determine if it’s suitable (available, accessible, amenities, cost, and sustainable) to support the project’s requirements. Gather sufficient information (photos, dimensions, and sketch maps) to help select the best site/venue to create your Draft POA.
Create a Draft Plan of Action (POA): POA includes the Objective, Methods, Risk, Time table, Resources Needed, and Unresolved Issues.
Identify Unresolved Issues: Questions, Unknowns, Issues, Concerns, Short-falls, Obstacles, Problems that could slow or stop your progress.
Conduct a Risk Assessment: With the help of your team, assess the risk of any safety, security, financial, and assumption risk associated with the project and how they can be mitigated?
Identify the Unintended Consequences & 2d/3d Order Effects: Outcomes not expected by a decision/action and how the decision/action affects others.
Conduct a Backbriefing: Briefing given by a Project Leader to his leader, as to his Plan of Action (POA) to accomplish the leader’s objective, to enhance mutual understanding and trust by an exchange of questions/answers to identify any unmet expectations/hidden surprises.
Provide Advanced Warning: Information to all team members of what is being planning so they have as much time to plan as possible.
Staff the POA: Process of collaborating and achieving consensus by circulating a document (POA) through all team members for their concurrence or non-concurrence with comments.
Conduct a Decision Briefing: Briefing you give to Decision Maker (The Bill Payer), with all team members present, to obtain final approval, as needed.
Create Contingency Plans: POA only executed in the event something bad happens that was anticipated like bad weather.
Conduct In-Progress Review (IPR 1): Synchronization meeting conducted by Project Leader with all team members present to collaborate, coordinate, and achieve consensus on the project.
THE PREPARATION PHASE
Prepare to take Immediate Action: A disciplined drill used to react to unanticipated situations that could cause a work stoppage, property or equipment damage, a security breach, or physical injury.
Prepare an Unanticipated Situation Plan: Includes Priority Response System (a cell phone protocol that permits you to contact team members quickly), Pre-Stocking Site (location of much needed supplies), and Quick Response Team (on standing by with vehicles, cell phones, cash, and credit cards).
Provide Progress Briefings: Summary of progress of work you given to your leader telling the actual progress of your project in relation to the planned progress via presentation.
Provide Situation Reports: Verbal report to your leader telling the members current situation; what the member is working on, when he anticipates being done, and his Unresolved Issues and changes.
Conduct a Final Site/Venue Inspection: Last visit to venue to determine if anything has changed since your initial inspection.
Conduct In-Progress Review (IPR 2): Meeting conducted 7-10 days before the start of the project to confirm all assigned tasks have been completed on the date planned. If so, project moves to Phase 3, Execution.
THE EXECUTION PHASE
Conduct Pre-Staging: Involves the movement and storage of equipment and supplies to the site before the project, to make site set-up easier.
Conduct Rehearsals: Project Leader’s last chance to see, practice, or test things before the project starts to help him identify and correct mistakes before anyone else.
Conduct Site Set up: Conducted just before a project starts to configure the site as planned in POA. Having a site diagram (with extra copies) is a smart idea – showing where everything goes.
Project Starts: This is where the Project Leader facilitates the actions of all team members to ensure the project achieves the desired objective. If problems, either execute Immediate Action or a Contingency Plan, to keep the project moving forward.
Conduct Site Clearing: Time after project to restore site to its original configuration by removing equipment and supplies. Site needs to be cleared quickly to permit the next user to come in and stage their equipment.
THE ASSESSING PHASE
Assessing is a continuous process and is formalized during IPRs, Situation Reports, Progress Briefings, and an After-Action Review.
Conduct an After-Action Review (AAR): Professional discussion that focuses on what happened vs. what was supposed to happen, and asks: “What did we learn that can make us better next time/tomorrow?”
Conduct Project Close-out: Process of administering surveys, paying bills, sending letters, filing all supporting documents, and other final details.
Warning: If you fail to use these Preventive Actions when you plan any activity, do so at your own peril. You’ve been warned!
Delegate your “ASSIGNED DUTIES”
This section assumes you’re the leader with several team members.
Assigned duties are duties stated in the leaders Job Description
Have you ever struggled trying to determine which of your duties to delegate and to whom? First, you can’t delegate away your responsibilities.
The leader is responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen within his unit.
But you can delegate your authority. The only question that remains is WHAT should you delegate?
Here’s the Secret to your long-term success:
Reassign all your assigned duties to your team members as part of their Job Description.
Since the responsibility for all your duties (both assigned and inherent) still belong to you, delegate each assigned duty to a team member. Then, train them how to perform these assigned duties to standard. This may sound strange at first. But, if you don’t do this, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and lose your Flexibility to Respond.
What about new problems that come up?
Treat every problem the same as your assigned duties or a new project. Delegate problems to your team members, rather than trying to resolve them yourself. In some cases, these problems will become projects. If you get involved in solving problems yourself, without delegating them, you’ll quickly lose your Flexibility to Respond. So, be careful.
Which team member should receive the assignment?
As I see it, you have three options:
- First, assign the problem to someone who is most available
- Second, assign the problem to your most trusted member
- Third, and my favorite, is to assign the problem to the team member whose duties and responsibilities most closely align with the problem – even if that team member will now be over whelmed.
Why? Because it’s good to keeping problems, changes, and new projects with the team member whose responsibilities most closely fits. This ensures that the team with the greatest expertise, institutional knowledge, and experience receives the assignment. In other words, keep things where they belong. And, if a team member becomes overwhelmed, you can reassign or reposition others who are less engaged to assist temporarily. That’s what leaders do. That’s why you should always protect your Flexibility to Respond.
Conduct your “INHERENT DUTIES”
What are your duties? As leader, you have two categories of duties: Assigned duties which are stated in your Job Description and Inherent duties.
Inherent duties are generic leader ONLY duties expected and
performed by all leaders that cannot be reassigned.
The most important Leader ONLY Inherent Duties that will consume 90% of your time are:
- Traveling and attending meetings you’re required to attend
- Conducting your own internal meetings and following up
- Briefings those you’re required to brief
- Responding to emails, voicemails, and other correspondence
- Delegating actions/problems to team members to resolve
- Training team members how to successfully complete projects
- Solving problems only you can resolve
- Conducting interviews and performance reviews
- Checking, inspecting, re-inspecting, and visiting
- Planning, organizing, building teams, training, delegating, and setting goals and priorities
- Enforcing standards, correcting, counseling, reprimanding, retraining, and punishing
- Inspiring, motivating, praising, encouraging, consoling, challenging, coaching, and promoting
As you consider these Leader ONLY Inherent Duties, realize they’re the most important things you can do. This is why all your assigned duties should be delegated (assigned) to your team members (on their Job Description).
Also, remember that when it comes to delegating, treat problems the same as assigned duties and projects. Delegate problems to your team member, as well as assigned duties and projects. In most cases, the problem will become a project or a duty requiring the efforts of others to resolve. If you get involved in solving problems yourself, without delegating them, you will quickly lose your Flexibility to Respond. So, be careful.
This is why all your assigned duties should be delegated (assigned) to your team members (on their Job Description).
Be Careful when “Accepting” New Assignments
In the workplace, if you accept an assignment, this starts the Planning Phase of the Project Process. Here, your leader has asked you to do something (task or project) and you accepted. If you accepted, you’ve promised to deliver, but will you?
Do you have to accept every assignment your leader gives you?
Actually, No. You have several choices. However, if you accept an assignment, or don’t say anything, you just made a promise to deliver. A promise also includes when you tell someone you’ll do something or when you’re asked for help and you say you’ll help. If you’re not going to help, then say so!
Keep your word, especially to yourself, or
don’t make the promise in the first place.
Whether you promise a friend, associate, your leader, a total stranger, or yourself that you’ll do something by a certain time, you’ve already created a debt. And, if you’re poor at keeping your promises, this will destroy your credibility. The toxic effect of this debt is catastrophic to your relationships, as well as your self-image. If it’s a bad habit, own up to it and make the change. Do you deliver on what you said you’d do? If you tell someone, “I’ll get back to you”, do you?
Your greatest personal power is your word.
Under promise and over deliver!
The person doing the asking could be a superior (your leader in most cases) or it could be a peer or even a subordinate. However, just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you must accept.
Here are the five Options you have when asked to do anything:
If you Accept, you begin the process of receiving the project. Receiving a project means you’ve been selected by someone (normally your leader) to be In-Charge of making something (the project) happen and you agreed to accept. Do not accept if you cannot deliver. Stop and think. If you have any concerns or reservations, say so. When you first receive a project, it’s important you identify two things: what needs to be done and the deadline?
The best questions to ask to determine the projects complexity and importance:
What’s the most important task for the success of this project?
What must be ordered or started now
Who needs to know about this right now?
Who has conducted a project like this before?
What does being In-Charge mean? What do you have the authority to do?
Be careful not to accept too much, which will burn you out. Accepting too much and being afraid or too proud to say NO or ask for help, is the recipe for disaster. If you intend to remain effective over the long haul, ensure you know your limits of your work load.
Part of being effective is knowing when to say NO,
and when to ask for help.
If you Accept with Conditions, state your reasons and negotiate the conditions. Negotiating is the most underrated skill a person can have and one of the most productive. When you consider that most human communication is some form of negotiating, you’ll quickly come to realize how important this skill is to your ability to influence others. Can you say NO to your leader? Of course, just make sure you have a good reason. Now the negotiations begin.
If you Delay, by telling someone that you’ll get back with them, do you? Remember, your integrity and credibility are being tested here. Keep your word.
If you Redirect, ensure you direct them to someone or somewhere that can help the asker. Helping others builds relationships. If you can’t help them or they can help themselves, direct them to the solution. Be helpful.
If you Reject, ensure you have a good reason. Can you reject your leader? Sure, but he’ll need a good reason. Also, be prepared to negotiate because your leader may have no other choice. Be assertive and tell your leader specifically what you need, along with the consequences and effects of what won’t get done.
Note: All these actions assume that you are the Project Leader for an important project.
To be continued: If you’d like to learn more about enhancing your ability to plan, you can do so by adding this book to your professional library, today!
YOUR GUIDE TO BETTER PLANNING
Here you’ll learn:
Chapter 1: The Basics of Planning
Chapter 3: The BEST Checklist to Create a Plan of Action (POA)
Chapter 4: What a Real Plan of Action (POA) Looks Like
Chapter 5: The Most Important Planning Tips
Chapter 6: The Top 18: Don’t Forget Nothin!
Chapter 7: Assessing and Mitigating Risk
Chapter 8: Creating Contingency and Mitigation Plans
Chapter 9: Training to Excellence
Chapter 10: Managing a Budget
You now have the chance to enhance your career by learning how to become more effective tomorrow than you are today.
Or, you can take advantage of our Special Offer below.
To SAVE 75%, purchase The Effectiveness Guide, which contains all 10 Volumes, instead of buying each volume separately.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
CHAPTER 1: BY BECOMING A BETTER FOLLOWER
CHAPTER 2: BY BECOMING A BETTER DELEGATOR
CHAPTER 3: BY BECOMING A BETTER PLANNER
CHAPTER 4: BY BECOMING A BETTER ORGANIZER
CHAPTER 5: BY BECOMING A BETTER COMMUNICATOR
CHAPTER 6: BY BECOMING A BETTER PROBLEM SOLVER
CHAPTER 7: BY ENHANCING YOUR AWARENESS
CHAPTER 8: BY BECOMING A BETTER TRAINER
CHAPTER 9: BY ENHANCING YOUR ABILITY TO MOTIVATE
CHAPTER 10: BY ENHANCING YOUR CHARACTER
APPENDIX A: PLAN OF ACTION EXAMPLE
APPENDIX B: REAL WORLD PROBLEM SOLVING EXAMPLE
APPENDIX C: ADVANCE PROBLEM SOLVING WITH VUCA
APPENDIX D: CAREER ADVICE
APPENDIX E: CREATING MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS
The Effectiveness Guide is the best investment you’ll ever make in your career.
Also, if you feel this information could help someone else, please take a few moments to let them know. If it turns out to make a difference in their life, they’ll be forever grateful to you – as will I.
Let’s make a difference together – one person at a time!
All the best!
Founder of TheCAREERMaker.com
Connect with me at:
What are you doing to improve yourself?
Stop wishing you were better and do something about it today.
The 10 Core Competencies of Effectiveness
Followership | Delegating | Planning | Organizing | Communicating
Problem-Solving | Awareness | Training | Motivating | Character