7 Steps for Effective Planning
Strategic planning, debriefing, and after-action reviews are critical steps in building high-performance teams, high-growth organizations, and meeting/exceeding goals. Planning and debriefing models can be used for long- and short-term execution and are the cornerstone of why some projects fail and others succeed.
We believe strongly in bringing teams together around an aligned objective, specific strategy, and goals that work collaboratively to define actions for execution. Many of our clients understand that 60% of plans fail due to a lack of alignment and accountability. Having an execution plan for projects and initiatives provides a North Star for teams that want to achieve desired results.
Here are the seven questions you need to ask to plan effectively:
#1: What’s Our Objective?
Determine your objective. Agree as a team what you are trying to accomplish. Objectives must be concise, quantifiable, time-bound and support your organization’s overall mission. Make sure all individuals in the planning process are aligned and understand their role.
#2: Are There Any Potential Roadblocks?
Take the necessary time to collaborate with your team and outline the items you can control and the ones you can’t control. By making a list of these items, you can mitigate risk and discuss possible solutions to issues that come up.
#3: What Resources Can We Utilize?
In order to properly execute a plan, it is important to understand what resources you have or will need to get the job done. Identify people, programs, and costs associated so you can get proper approvals and research different options in advance.
#4: What Have We Learned From Past Planning Sessions?
If you don’t currently have a central location that everyone on the team has access to for lessons learned on similar projects, make a point to document and store project after-action reviews, case studies, process docs, notes, and templates in one location. Our company saves all these items in a “Center of Excellence” folder on our Google shared drive.
#5: What Actions Do We Need To Take?
Make a list of all the actions that must be executed leading up to and during the “mission” by you and others on the team. This is where you need to get specific on the what, when, and who. What’s expected, when is it due, who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed.
#6: How Might This Plan Fail?
Every plan should have an outside party review. Having a fresh set of eyes can bring a new perspective and catch potential holes in the plan. Some call this the Red Team process where individuals not involved in the planning process come in to provide feedback and potential issues/concerns so the planning team can develop contingencies.
Building a simple one-page template for this process helps to keep meetings on track and guide the team in creating a solid plan.
#7: What Are Our Contingencies?
All good plans have a Plan B. It’s time to think about the “what ifs.” When identifying the elements out of your control, discussing the unknowns, and creating contingency plans allows you to course-correct much quicker.
Once you finalize the plan, give your team the autonomy to execute and after execution, make sure to debrief and document lessons learned. This will allow other team members to learn from your wins and losses making the organization as a whole stronger.
We’ve created a quick debriefing checklist for you to follow.
- Schedule a time and place for the debrief, send a calendar invite, and designate a note-taker.
- Practice respectful conflict (create a learning environment that gives all team members an opportunity to talk).
- Ask these (5) questions:
- What were we trying to accomplish? (review your objective)
- Where did we hit or miss the objective?
- What was the root cause of your result?
- As a team, what should we stop, start or continue doing for future success?
- What are our key lessons learned? (List 3)
Make sure to end any debrief on a positive note! Ensure that all notes from the meeting are documented and distributed to the team and key individuals in the organization within three days of the debrief.
This process transforms mindsets and behaviors toward high-performance and builds accountable teams that follow-through. It’s time to get after it!
This article was originally shared by Brent Gleeson, Founder & CEO of TakingPoint Leadership on Forbes, How Navy SEALs Plan, Lead and Learn.
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