Creating the plans for performing the task.
Identifying what the plans need to include.
Planning is essential if you have a big task ahead of you or it is a very chaotic situation that you have to sort out. Things can soon become confusing or more chaotic if you lose track of what you are trying to do or where you have left things.
Planning can be useful for any situation whether in the real world (e.g. moving things around), or organising something (e.g. an event) or just figuring out your own ideas (e.g. writing an article).
Planning for the changes
Once you have worked out what it is that you want to achieve (The objective) it is time to start planning for the task ahead.
Scenario: Reorganising files on a shared computer network
This scenario is based on a real task I was once required to do. A restructuring was required of a computer database. The key aspects of this task were:
- It contained more than 300 files.
- These were used, shared and modified by a variety of different people.
- It was always in constant use, with some of the files being updated at any moment in time by different people
- There were a number of files that were no longer being used (obsolete)
The objective of this task required a major reorganising of the files within the database, with new files to be created, obsolete files removed and many that had to be modified. Plus engaging with everyone who used the database!
Similar scenarios could include:
- A Writer could decide to update a book, maybe moving, replacing or adding chapters, as well as updating them. He may have worked with another writer on the original book.
- A Decorator wants to do a number of changes to a house, adding an extension, knocking bits down, as well as redecorating. He may not be the only person working on the site
1) Do not cut back on the time you spend on the planning
This is very important. It can be all too easy to not give this stage the time it deserves. You only want to do these changes once and you will save more time in the long run if they go smoothly once you begin.
Your planning may only take a couple of minutes (e.g. rearranging the desk), but few will ever be that simple.
Shared files scenario: In this case there were many people who would be using it, with some files out of date, some files duplicated and a general messy set-up. The planning required taking all of these aspects into consideration and figuring out how to cause the least interference to other users during the restructuring task.
Key point: The bigger the changes, the more planning time you will need.
2) How many different stages are required to achieve your objective?
If your objective has more than one stage required to complete the task then each stage will need to be recognised and its requirements identified, together with some idea of the time it may take to complete it. For example you may need to rearrange some shelves, the stages for this will include working out the new arrangement, removing the current items in an orderly manner, setting up the new layout and replacing the items back into there new places
Shared files scenario: Stages required were to first understand the current set up, from there to identify any relationships between the files, what files could be grouped together and therefore would need to remain together in the new set up, after that would come working out a new design.
Checks would also be needed to see what files were used by more than one item (shared), what ones were no longer being used (obsolete) and whether the current users had any thoughts on what should happen (opinions)
Note: Whenever a stage has to work with more than one item (e.g. A shared file or idea), then your plan would need to work out what was generally required from that specific stage before identifying any slight differences of requirements between the items. From this you can then create a single design plan for that stage that can then accommodate these different requirements, saving you the need of recreating the whole stage for each item in your plan.
Key point: Ensure that you identify as many of the stages that your task will require.
3) How many different activities are required?
If your objective has more than one activity required to complete the task then these will need to be identified as separate activities in your plan; each activity will need to be given its own title and have their own personal stages identified to complete that specific activity.
Shared files scenario: The type of activities shared by different products could include: talking to the users of the database to find out who uses what, working out the design of the new database, identifying what files had to be changed and in what ways, creating new files, removing obsolete files …
Key point: Each activity will have its own list of stages required to complete the task.
4) How much inconvenience will it cause to other people?
The level of inconvenience that your changes will cause to other people could be as simple as being unable to use a drawer for 5 minutes or as complex as moving them to a different part of the building. Whatever the level of impact some kind of warning should be issued in advance of the changes so that they are prepared for the inconvenience – the larger the changes the earlier the warning should be given.
Shared files scenario: When an activity on the list was planned to be started in the not too distant future (a day or so, or a week for bigger changes), then the people who would be affected by that activity were warned in advance so that they were ready for it and any arrangements could be made – this could also include changing your own plans if this was a real problem for them.
Key point: The bigger the changes, the earlier the warning to others should be given.
5) Will you need extra support to implement the changes?
Are you going to need other people to help with these changes? If so then do you require people with special skills? For example if you want to put new shelves on a wall you will need to arrange for support from someone – whether this is an external company with the skills required to perform the task or just simply asking a neighbour to hold the other end of the shelf.
Tip: by warning people that you will need their help once you realise they have a part to play, even if you do not know when, will allow them be ready for when the time comes for you to ask them.
Shared files scenario: The people who may be involved at some point were told about that requirement before the project started (‘at some point I will need you help to …’), then as the time approached they were contacted and it was not a surprise to them.
Key point: Let people know if you need their support as soon as you can, even if you do not know when.
6) When would be a good time to implement your changes?
Are you free to choose a time? Or are you constrained for some reason? If you do have limitations, for example perhaps it can only be done at weekends or you need a specific person, then doing a time schedule for the availability of each and cross referencing them to sort out the time, will be essential – especially if you have a number of these limitations to manage. This will help with allocating what tasks to do and when. (See Managing yourself for tips on how to create a task list for your own activities to help with your own scheduling)
Shared file scenario: There were quite a lot of different tasks and activities to be completed. I drew up a list of the tasks and identified what resources I had and at what time – thus allowing myself to move between tasks accordingly. This ensured that when I lost a resource (a person, item, space, etc.) I could switch to a different task.
Key point: If their are limitations, sort out a time schedule according to these limitations.
7) Ensure that the resources will be available, that they do exist somewhere even if you do not need them yet
Everything that you will need to use to complete the task should be available for when you require it. If something needs to be ordered or brought in then identify how long it would take for it to arrive and plan that into your schedule.
Shared file scenario: This included arranging for extra disc space on the computer to save files during the time that I was working with them.
Key point: Sort out all the resources that you need before starting the task and check they will be available.
Good planning will lead to a better result when the changes do take place. Planning includes ensuring that the facilities you require will be available when you need them, and letting others know what is going to happen and whether you will need their help.
Once you have the plans, then comes the preparation for starting the task: The preparation.
Jenny Maryl ~ Inspiring the Imagination ~ Contact Me