You and I know how to Plan. Right?
Planning and Evolution:
Isn’t it incredible to think of those Million years and all the minute changes our physiology underwent to arrive at where we are today? In evolutionary terms- this grey mass- the frontal lobe is the youngest significant addition to the Human Brain.
Complex Planning happens in an area of the Frontal Lobe called the Pre- Frontal Cortex.
This is the most poetic thing I have ever read about the Brain! For the first time in a million years, the brilliant networks of the Brain started developing in specific ways, witnessing the formation of the very first Frontal Lobe.
The five-fold technique of Planning
We hear different Types of Planning advice. “The key is to remember the bigger picture”, “The key is to stop thinking and start acting!”, “The key is to understand your purpose”, “The key is to hire a Strategy consultant”…
I came across a five-fold technique when I was reading a book by David Allen. After applying the technique to my Project Planning, I noticed it gave insane clarity.
This technique has five techniques arranged in a specific sequence. If you miss the sequence, it leads to more confusion than clarity.
Those, who are innately talented in making successful plans apply these 5 levels of thinking subconsciously.
The five steps involved in the technique require you to think and write about:
1. Purpose and Principles
5. Next actionable steps
The five levels of a Perfect Planning Process
1. Purpose and Principle
Define your Purpose and Principles as the first step. Any compromises made at this level will ultimately lead to disasters, dissatisfied lives, and halted projects. Here is where you must learn to put your foot down.
Ask yourself the Why Question. Answering it will give you what the Bigger Picture is.
Why do you want to do this project? Why do you want to get married to that person? Why do you want to meet your Marketing Director?
1. Defines Success.
2. Provides the criteria to make decisions.
3. Helps you align resources to reach a goal-set.
5. Clarifies focus.
6. Expands options.
Purpose helps you understand the Bigger Picture, instead of being stuck in the nitty- gritties.
Let us ask why you want to call your friend. The answer could be: “I wish to stay connected to people who care for me. I want to show I love them. I’m interested in learning about their life.”
This helps you cool off before you fly into a raging argument about why you think their latest favorite movie is trash.
The Why question is just advanced common sense but, it must be answered first. You know you need not severe ties over that stupid movie. “Your purpose is showing love, Calvin. Focus!”
Without establishing it clearly in your mind, you will simply end up having multiple unsuccessful meetings with your Marketing Director and losing friendships about that stupid alien movie.
Fill the sentence: ” I will give others complete control as long as they:____” based on the requirements of your projects and your value system.
The answers could range from: “as long as they respect strict timelines and follow rules.”, “as long as they bring in profits.”, “as long as they are loyal and truly care.”, “ensure a healthy team and work- environment.”
1. Clarity of purpose gives you direction and, establishing your Principles will layout the boundaries within which one can function.
This level of Planning which involves Purpose and Principles forms the bones of your Planning Process.
2. Clear Outcomes
Having a clear outcome provides the actual blueprint of a final result. You can define an ideal outcome by answering the “What” question in great detail.
What would your project look like when it successfully appears in the World? – David Allen
You and I would be wiser if we answered “What would that conversation with my friend feel like?. It would involve talking about her health, my vacation plan, her new project, my newfound interest in reading lite- poetry.”
See? No need to fight over alien movies.
Once the why and what questions are complete, the ‘how’ question must be answered. It basically means coming up with ideas, plans, and solutions to reach the desired outcome.
There are 3 key rules of Brainstorming:
- Don’t be analytical: At this stage, it is essential to let a free flow of ideas to come to you. Do not judge, challenge, evaluate, or criticize ideas at this stage.
- Get more ideas: Having a number of ideas will expand your outlook on your project. Even bad ideas help in establishing a clearer context for developing better options and builds more trust in your choices.
- External Brainstorming: Create a Mind Map of each individual idea outside your Brain. Simply put- jot them down!
Neuroscientific studies discovered that the best way to process ideas is through External Brainstorming. You need to put your ideas on a piece of paper or a digital device.
Mind Mapping is a fancy way of saying: draw your ideas. The core idea is placed at the centre. All activities involved to achieve the core idea are drawn as branches.
This idea is called Distributed Cognition: It is building an external mind. It helps you to hold the idea, focus on it step by step, and to continuously reflect these steps back to you.
Once you use Mind Maps to jot your ideas down, a natural structure emerges.
- You need to carefully identify the Project into various components and events.
- Decide the sequence of events according to priorities and subcomponents.
- Define the independent and related events of the project in great detail. Clearly state the milestones and timelines.
Most Project Plans end at this step. This is the reason why they lag.
5. Actionable Next Steps
The fifth technique needs to be updated frequently, till the end of the project. Spot all Actionable Next Steps of the project, delegate, and start working on them right away.
New actionable steps keep emerging as the project moves forward. But identifying the Next Immediate Actions increases the Project’s clarity and speed.
This is the five-fold technique of Complex Project Planning. I dedicate this to one of my cousins- Keerthana. She loves to plan.