Organizational Development Consultant

Fifteen Techniques for Implementing Decisions: #10 Project Plans

January 10, 2015

“We seem to have a difficult time moving from large, complex goals into detailed action plans. Is there a technique that can help us better organize our efforts in this type of situation?”

#10: Project Plans

What are Project Plans?

The Project Plans technique helps you effectively prepare a complex action plan. After an organization or group has agreed upon and approved a goal, the next step is to create an action plan for achieving that goal. If the goal is large and complicated, the resulting action plan will have several levels and categories of activity.

A Project Plan is an extremely efficient technique for establishing the levels and categories of a complex action plan in a systematic and easy-to-understand form. Sometimes the details of a plan of this type will be completed on different levels and by different departments within an organization. A Project Plan serves this purpose well, and also provides an easy-to-follow process for visually tracking what actions will be done by whom and by when.

When to Use Project Plans

  • When planning the details of how to reach a complex goal
  • When the actions to achieving a goal are multi-faceted and multi-layered
  • When you want to agree with a plan with those involved in its implementation and also with other key stakeholders

How to Use Project Plans

Before the Meeting

Prepare an Excel spreadsheet using the below template as a starting point. Customize it for your purposes.

NOTE: You may also use Microsoft Project if you prefer and all team members have access to Microsoft Project software.

Be sure to include the individuals who will deliver your project in the meeting. If this is not possible, plan subsequent meetings to include all appropriate people.

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During the Meeting

  1. Review the goal or project charter for which you are creating your action plan.
  2. Display your project plan template on a large screen. Explain the process of building the project plan, where you will start with the list of primary activities, and next fill in the details. This keeps the meeting from getting bogged down in detail too quickly, and allows participants to see the big picture first.
  3. Have your meeting group list the primary activities or categories of activities that will need to be accomplished in order for the goal to be reached. Type their replies into your Project Plan as you go. Use verbs to start each phrase to ensure clarity of the action. Don’t worry about typing perfection at this point. You can clean up your document after the meeting is over.

NOTE: You may also ask another participant with good typing skills to manage this task for you.

  1. Once the primary activities are documented, ask the group to identify the next level of activities that will need to be accomplished. Type their responses as you go.
  2. Continue the process as described in Steps 3 and 4 to whatever level of detail is required and appropriate for the situation.

NOTE: The appropriate level of detail is usually at the point where individuals are clear about the actions or next steps required from them, and where the interdependencies of tasks are clear.

  1. Add Who and By When information for every branch of your Project Plan.

NOTE: When estimating time frames, it is often helpful to work backwards from the goal. In other words, begin from the last required action in the process toward the first actions. By doing so, you are more likely to create time frames that meet the original time commitment.

  1. Review and complete your Project Plan.
  2. Agree with the group how to launch the project plan and monitor progress.

After the Meeting

  1. Clean up your document and send it to participants. Ask for feedback to ensure that the Project Plan articulates agreements and is a feasible plan.
  2. Follow your Project Plan as agreed.

In Summary

Project Plans provide a means for effectively detailing a complex action plan, usually involving more than one person.

Before the Meeting

Create a template for the meeting. Invite your project team or other appropriate persons to the meeting.

During the Meeting

  1. Review the goal for which you are creating your action plan.
  2. Explain the process you will use.
  3. List the primary activities or categories of activities that will need to be accomplished.
  4. Identify the next level of activities that will need to be accomplished.
  5. Continue the process as described in Steps 3 and 4 to the level of detail that is appropriate for the situation.
  6. Add Who and By When information for every branch of your Project Plan.
  7. Review and complete your Project Plan together as a team.
  8. Agree how to launch the project and monitor progress.

After the Meeting

  1. Clean up your document, send it to participants and ask for feedback on its accuracy and feasibility.
  2. Follow your Project Plan as agreed.

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You will find my book Mission Critical Meetings: 81 Practical Facilitation Techniques on Amazon. Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

http://www.amazon.com/Mission-Critical-Meetings-Facilitation-Techniques/dp/1627870377/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408719109&sr=1-2&keywords=Mission+Critical+Meetings

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