Planning The Plan

Planning the plan imageRedundancy jokes aside, do you have a plan for your plan? Whether you are about to embark on a strategic plan, a marketing plan or an operational plan, you will need to develop a clear path—towards a successful strategy that can be implemented.

The basics of an overall design are the same, no matter what you want to achieve. Any plan should include:

* The Goal
* Necessary Resources
* Paths of Communication
* Accountability vs. Blame

The Goal
Write it out and have all parties sign off on it. This is the time to disagree about the precise purpose and, ultimately, find a common ground that everyone is willing to work towards.

In case you missed it in the paragraph above – have everyone sign off on it. Yes, require that every one who has a say in the project will physically sign all relevant documents.

There may be an issue as to whether emails are legal documents, questions as to whether verbal conversations occurred in the way that we remember them or, even, if an office conversation occurred. But we all know to read carefully and agree with every word on a page before we add our signature.

Necessary Resources
What do you need to achieve your goals? For instance, how many people will be needed at each point in the plan? Do you know who they will be? If not, where will you find them? Who will be in charge of recruiting?

In addition to human resources, now is the time to determine and allocate time and financial resources.

How much time do you need to spend on each part of the project? Time limits for each stage may result in a brochure that is not exactly perfect, but it is often worth trading perfection for progress. Just make sure that there are no typos or names misspelled.

Time limits compel everyone to focus on the task within the time allowed. If a team-member is unable to work on an aspect of the project within the agreed upon time frame, then, they cannot have a say, after the fact. You must be absolutely clear that they cannot go back to change previous decisions because they do not like what the group has done. Remember that in the end, it is a group decision.

The financial goals may morph as the details of the plan emerge, but know ahead of time what it will take to hire a consultant, architect, etc… and where and how you feel your funds would be best spent.

Again, let’s stress the point – all members of the leadership team – whether they are staff or volunteer must agree on these essential elements before you begin to get worker bees to help achieve your goals. Mixed messages will only create chaos.

Paths of Communication
When you need to make decisions, how will they be made and by whom? As consultants, we have been privy to see the 14 emails it takes to determine which logo should be used on a case statement. Do you want each decision to be determined by everyone on the committee? Who has the final say? Can there be a point person to whom each opinion can be sent. If a decision becomes controversial, how will you handle it (e.g. take a vote or table the decision until you meet in person)? Who is in charge of ensuring you stay on track? Answer these types of questions before they come up in the heat of battle.

Accountability vs. Blame
The difference between accountability and blame could be the difference between the success or failure of your project. Something will not go as planned –it is one of the immutable laws of nature. The question is, do you look for a scapegoat or a new solution.

A person who is accountable and responsible will come to a meeting with alternatives to the original plan. If he/she knows there is going to be blame, he/she may not even show up. In addition, when you are talking about volunteers, accountability introduces a sense of ownership among all participants and helps keep a project on track. Committee co-chairs can divide responsibilities only between themselves or share them all with every member of the team. Just know who is in charge of every aspect—decide in advance where the buck stops.

Good luck on your next plan.