Ten Ways to Effective Planning


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Jayaram V

Summary: Find here ten suggestions to create effective plans by knowing the five steps in the planning process.

Plans must be effective and efficient, so that their implementation progresses smoothly and their objectives are fully realized. For that, one has to pay attention to each of the steps in the planning process. There are primarily five steps to a standard planning process. They are stated below.

  1. Study the current situation to know where you stand
  2. Determine what you want to achieve by identifying priority areas
  3. Set realistic and clear goals which can be translated into actionable plans.
  4. Create a system of accountability to fix problems and overcome obstacles
  5. Establish a monitoring and control system to review the progress

Each phase is unique and poses its own challenges in the planning process. A plan is effective only if it is strengthened in all the five areas of planning, with necessary safeguards. The following is a list of ten important suggestions, two for each phase, which are helpful to improve the planning process and the efficacy of the plans.

Phase 1 - Study

1. Be objective: In the first phase of the planning, you have to be objective and honest with yourself to see things as they are, and know where you stand, rather than what you want to see. If you cannot see the current situation with clarity and objectivity, you will not be able to create effective plans.

2. Have an open mind: While studying the current situation, you cannot totally rely upon yourself, unless you keep an open mind. It is still better if you consult others and take their opinions. When you do so, make sure that you encourage people to be frank and honest, even if they disagree with you.

Phase 2 - Priorities

3. Have a clear vision: In planning, you translate your vision into actionable goals. Therefore, to draw your plans, you must have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Without the vision, you cannot determine what is important or necessary for your success or future. For a better plan, have that vision of yours translated into a mission statement, so that it becomes the operating principle of your planning.

4. Be practical: A plan is an organized course of action to achieve specific ends. It cannot be based upon wishful thinking. In setting your priorities and focus areas during the planning process, you have to be practical and reasonable with yourself and others. Try to be practical and task oriented in choosing the areas where you want to focus your attention.

Phase 3 - Goals

5. Be realistic and precise: Your goals must be created in such a manner that they help you build effective plans of action, which will lead you towards your cherished vision. If your goals are realistic and attainable, you plan will be realistic and attainable. Therefore, let your goals be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based, so that it will be easier to focus upon them, monitor them and measure your progress.

6. Avoid the extremes: The primary purpose of any planning is to bring a measure of certainty to an uncertain future. Planning does not guarantee success but shows a clear path to success and thereby increases your chances of success. Therefore, set your goals within your limits and constraints, knowing what you can and cannot do, avoiding the extremes, so that you do not have to strain yourself or others.

Phase 4 - Accountability

7. Be willing to take responsibility: You must know your role and responsibility in the planning process and be willing to take control of your actions and decisions. If you are responsible for others, you must let them know their roles and responsibilities too and suggest clear guidelines to establish accountability. Unless you set a personal example, you cannot win the trust and cooperation of others.

8. Communicate effectively: Communication is a vital part of planning, especially when it involves other people and their contribution and cooperation. You need effective communication to build consensus around the planning process and achieve the set goals. You also need it to formulate right strategies, allocate resources, determine roles and responsibilities and establish control and accountability.

Phase 5 - Controls

9. Be willing to learn from failures: Even the best of plans can fail despite the extent of effort that goes into them. Sometimes during the implementation phase, you may also realize that your planning itself was faulty because of mistakes in the planning process or in forecasting the outcomes. If it happens, make sure that you learn from them and move on, so that you can minimize the chances of their recurrence.

10. Prepare for contingencies: No one can predict future. Unforeseen events and unexpected problems can derail any planning process or the implementation of any plans. Therefore, make a provision in your plans for catastrophes, unforeseen risks and exceptional situations. Create necessary backup plans and built-in safeguards, so that you can be prepared for any eventuality.

Your plans must be complete in all respects, before you begin to implement them so that you do not have to plan as you go on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Make sure that your plans contribute to your growth, success and wellbeing, rather than unsettling your future or complicate your life. Most importantly, be practical and precise in your approach. As your build plans and begin to implement them, keep your options open to deal with unexpected problems and situations.

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