I was once in a meeting where we were planning an orientation process.  It was the first meeting so we were just getting started.  Someone mentioned the idea of having a series of classes and the whole room went immediately to planning the number, length, and content of each class.  One person even started scheduling them on the calendar.  But we hadn’t even considered what the best strategy would be.  We hadn’t considered audio CDs, interactive DVDs, a series of printed booklets with quizzes attached, one-on-one mentoring programs, or online interactive games—all of which have been effectively used in orientation processes.  Why did we jump so quickly to planning details when we hadn’t given proper attention to the options available?

Humans are by nature impatient.  We don’t want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary, and nobody in that room wanted to spend more time than they had to.  To be fair, each of those people was busy.  They had a lot of other responsibilities.  For each of them this was just one item on a very full plate.  So, they just wanted to get this assignment checked off so they could get back to work.  Plan one orientation process . . . “DONE!”

In addition we humans don’t like uncertainty.  We want resolution.  And in order to experience resolution we are often willing to commit to a plan of action before taking the time to explore the possibilities and choose the right plan of action.

But if you are going to take the time to plan something isn’t it best to take enough time to do it right?  Here’s a little secret: if you jump too soon you end up wasting time, not saving it.

The committee planning the orientation realized that they needed a mechanism to funnel people into the orientation process.  It was an orientation process for a very large church and an early idea was to have a booth on Sunday mornings where visitors could come ask questions and be introduced to the culture of that congregation.  We even came up with a catchy title for the booth.  One of the team members spent hours figuring out exactly how that booth would function: what it would look like, where it would be located, who would staff it, how often each person would serve, and what hand-outs would be available.  But eventually the whole idea of a booth got scrapped.  All the time that had been spent planning it was wasted.

There is a flow and sequence to planning and the biggest mistake people make is jumping to planning details before they have really allowed the big picture to develop.  When we do that we find ourselves spinning our wheels and wasting a lot of time.  In addition, it is easy to get overwhelmed because if we don’t understand the planning sequence there is no way to decide what to do first.

I will continue to lay out the planning sequence in the coming installments, but for now recognize that each time you sit down to work on the plan you must consciously determine what is the purpose (and non-purpose) of that session and where you are in the planning sequence.

This is the third installment in a series of posts, How to Plan a Project with Ease.

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