Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 30th 2013 Contents B30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The planning cycle brings together
all aspects of planning into a coherent,
By planning within this structure, you
will help to ensure that your plans are
fully considered, well focused, resilient,
practical and cost-effective. You will
also ensure that you learn from any mis-
takes you make, and feed this back into
future planning and decision making.
Planning using this cycle will help
you to plan and manage ongoing projects
up to a certain level of complexity -- this
will depend on the circumstance. For
projects involving many people over a
long period of time, more formal
methodologies and approaches are nec-
How to use the tool:
It is best to think of planning as a
cycle, not a straight-through process.
Once you have devised a plan you
should evaluate whether it is likely to
succeed. This evaluation may be cost
or number based, or may use other ana-
lytical tools. This analysis may show
that your plan may cause unwanted
consequences, may cost too much, or
may simply not work.
In this case you should cycle back to
an earlier stage. Alternatively you may
have to abandon the plan altogether --
the outcome of the planning process
may be that it is best to do nothing!
Finally, you should feed back what
you have learned with one plan into the
The stages in this planning process
are explained below:
Stage 1. Analysis of Opportunities
The first thing to do is to do is to spot
what needs to be done. You will crys-
tallise this into a formal aim at the next
stage in the process.
One approach to this is to examine
your current position, and decide how
you can improve it. There are a number
of techniques that will help you to do
This is a formal analysis of your
strengths and weaknesses, and of the
opportunities and threats that you face.
This helps you to spot project risks,
weaknesses in your organisation or oper-
ation, and identify the risks to which
you are exposed. From this you can plan
to neutralise some risks.
Understanding pressures for change:
Alternatively, other people (e.g. clients)
may be pressing you to change the way
you do things. Alternatively your envi-
ronment may be changing, and you may
need to anticipate or respond to this.
Pressures may arise from changes in the
economy, new legislation, competition,
changes in people's attitudes, new tech-
nologies, or changes in government.
A different approach is to use any of
a whole range of creativity tools to work
out where you can make improvements.
These creativity tools culminate in the
powerful Simplex process.
Stage 2. Identifying the Aim of
Once you have completed a real-
istic analysis of the opportunities
for change, the next step is to decide
precisely what the aim of your plan
is. Deciding and defining an aim
sharpens the focus of your plan,
and helps you to avoid wasting
effort on irrelevant side issues.
The aim is best expressed in a
simple single sentence. This ensures
that it is clear and sharp in your
If you are having difficulty in
formulating the aim of your plan,
• What do I want the future to
be?• What benefit do I want to give
to my customers?
• What returns do I seek?
• What standards am I aiming
at?• What values do I and my
organization believe in?
You can present this aim as a
vision statement or mission state-
ment. Vision statements express
the benefit that an organisation will
provide to its customers.
Mission statements give concrete
expression to the Vision statement,
explaining how it is to be achieved.
Stage 3. Exploring Options
By this stage you should know
where you are and what you want
to do. The next thing to do is to
work out how to do it. The Cre-
ativity Tools section of this site
explains a wide range of powerful
creativity tools that will help you
to generate options.
At this stage it is best to spend
a little time generating as many
options as possible, even though it
is tempting just to grasp the first
idea that comes to mind. By taking
a little time to generate as many
ideas as possible you may come up
with less obvious but better solu-
tions. Just as likely, you may
improve your best ideas with parts
of other ideas.
Stage 4. Selecting the Best Option
Once you have explored the
options available to you, it is time
to decide which one to use. If you
have the time and resources avail-
able, then you might decide to eval-
uate all options, carrying out
detailed planning, costing, risk
assessment, etc. for each. Normally
you will not have this luxury.
Stage 5. Detailed Planning
By the time you start detailed
planning, you should have a good
picture of where you are, what you
want to achieve and the range of
options available to you. You may
well have selected one of the options
as the most likely to yield the best
Detailed planning is the process
of working out the most efficient
and effective way of achieving the
aim that you have defined. It is the
process of determining who will do
what, when, where, how and why,
and at what cost.
When drawing up the plan, tech-
niques such as use of Gantt Charts
and Critical Path Analysis can be
immensely helpful in working out
priorities, deadlines and the allo-
cation of resources.
While you are concentrating on
the actions that need to be per-
formed, ensure that you also think
about the control mechanisms that
you will need to monitor perform-
ance. These will include the activ-
ities such as reporting, quality
assurance, cost control, etc. that
are needed to spot and correct any
deviations from the plan.
A good plan will:
• State the current situation.
• Have a clear aim.
• Use the resources available.
• Detail the tasks to be carried
out, whose responsibility they are,
and their priorities and deadlines.
• Detail control mechanisms that
will alert you to difficulties in
achieving the plan.
• Identify risks, and plan for con-
tingencies. This allows you to make
a rapid and effective response to
crises, perhaps at a time when you
are at low ebb or are confused fol-
lowing a setback.
• Consider transitional arrange-
ments -- how will you keep things
going while you implement the
Stage 6. Evaluation of the plan
and its Impact
Once you have worked out the
details of your plan, the next stage
is to review it to decide whether it
is worth implementing. Here you
must be objective -- however much
work you have carried out to reach
this stage, the plan may still not be
This is frustrating after the hard
work of detailed planning. It is,
however, much better to find this
out now than when you have
invested time, resources and per-
sonal standing in the success of the
Evaluating the plan now gives
you the opportunity to either inves-
tigate other options that might be
more successful, or to accept that
no plan is needed or should be car-
Depending on the circumstances,
the following techniques can be
helpful in evaluating a plan:
1. PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting):
This is a good, simple technique
for 'weighing the pros and cons' of
a decision. It involves listing the
plus points in the plan in one col-
umn, the minus points in a second
column, and the implications and
points of uncertainty of the plan
in a third column. Each point can
be allocated a positive or negative
2. Cost/Benefit Analysis:
This is useful for confirming that
the plan makes financial sense. This
involves adding up all the costs
involved with the plan, and com-
paring them with the expected ben-
efits. Continued on Page B31
The planning cycle
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