Dust-Covered Plans

In Strategic Planning by Karen Buck

One question I always ask while preparing for any planning process is:

“What needs to come out of this process for you to consider it successful?”

Do you want to know what I hear most often?

“I want a clear path forward. And I don’t want this to be one of those plans that sits on our bookshelf gathering dust.”

I’ve heard that phrase from someone on every project I’ve worked. And to be honest, that’s our greatest fear – that your new strategic plan (or fundraising plan, or business plan, etc.) is sitting there your bookshelf, getting dustier by the day. Maybe it crosses your mind from time to time and you tell yourself that you’ll get back to it someday soon.

If this sounds familiar, then “someday” is today. Once upon a time you and your team did some really good strategic thinking and charted a course for the future. Grab that plan, blow that dust off, and let’s get started.

One reason plans end up on the shelf is that it can be overwhelming to figure out how to operationalize them. It’s tough to figure out how to ensure that the actions we take this month or next year all add up to the reaching of a 3 or 5-year goal.

The key is to break it down into its component parts and steps. So let me introduce you to our project plan template. The project plan template is a straightforward tool that can be the bridge between the goal/ objective level of a plan and what you need to do next month.

Let’s say you want to build a project plan for a three-year goal in your strategic plan. Just:

  1. Define the result you want to accomplish for that goal in the first year – that’s your project goal
  2. List the objectives necessary to attain that project goal (think of these as the main categories of work needed)
  3. Under each objective, define the tasks, schedule (start date, end date, duration), and resources needed and assign responsibility for each task to a specific person

Building a project plan makes the path forward clear. It helps you communicate who needs to do what and by when and gives you a tool to monitor progress (e.g., either you’re on schedule or you’re not). It takes some time, but you will more than make up for it in time saved as you implement. And, hey, you’ll be implementing!

Whew! That’s the super-condensed version of our full-day project management training. I’d love to know: What tools do you use to break goals down? What variations on the project plan template do you suggest?