Effective Team Planning
Planning is a crucial element of every job, but few workers have received formal training about how to plan effectively. And while most of us can get by with our personal planning approach to handle our own responsibilities, planning for a team can seem overwhelming, perhaps impossible. Historically, planning gets a bad name because the word raises connotations of a long, static, spreadsheet-filled, document gathering dust in a three-ring binder in someone’s office.
Planning is a valuable teamwork skill. But a good plan is alive, flexible and built to capture and track the actual project path as well as crystallizing the intended path. A good plan takes the pressure off team leaders, offering a map of the terrain and a final word other than his or her own. Here are some recommendations from others in your field that may work for your organization.
Planning time for our company is usually late October through late November. It used to be that everyone holed up in his or her office those weeks trying to get his piece completed by the deadline. Now we kick off planning season with a teambuilding event and work on our rough outlines together on white boards. Seeing how the various department plans fit together early in the process makes the whole thing go more smoothly.
We didn’t have a clear system for project planning. Every department handled it a little differently. Most of the time it didn’t affect us, or so we thought. But when our resource plan revealed that we were double-ordering supplies just because they were named differently on their respective spreadsheets, we knew we need to overhaul more than just our forms. Our systems were flawed. Now we have one set of planning forms and a simple planning process that’s part of our new manager orientation.
I am careful to communicate with my teams that brainstorming is an inviolate component of planning. Too many people want to jump the gun and get it over with, but a good plan doesn’t rest on bad assumptions. Sometimes you have to throw out what you did the prior year or during the last project. It can seem time consuming, but brainstorming is a great start.
All of our team members keep ‘journals’ throughout the year. We write down what we learned during projects, mistakes we made, the outcome of decisions, business rationale all those things that you can’t track or record with sales goals, marketing metrics and the like. We often find that these random ideas or comments greatly impact our planning for the next year.
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