Time To Plan

One of the things I love about what I do is that I get to help people and their teams plan their future. It’s exciting to me to be part of a team realising what could be possible over the next year, quarter or month.

Why Plan?

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

The planning process alone is critical for a number of reasons:


An opportunity for teams to come together and share their dreams, hopes and fears. Collaboration builds trust, and teams that trust each other play well together. Think of any high performing team both on and off the sporting field. Collaboration also builds empathy. It has been proven that teams with higher levels of empathy (measured in scientific studies using facial expressions) perform better than teams with less empathy. When you have empathy, you are able to see things from another’s perspective and appreciate their view point. This diversity adds a richness to your planning (and outcomes) you may otherwise not have.

Shared Vision

When a planning session is done well, the team all walks away with a shared vision of the future. There may still be disagreement on how they will achieve it, but when people are aligned on the destination, they are more likely to work well together to achieve it. A powerful ‘Why’ is especially important in times of uncertainty, when although the details may not be clear, the vision and outcome are.

Clear Next Steps

When a team plans together, they stay together. Actually, I’m not sure that holds true all the time. But what does hold true is that when a team has a clear plan (and they have all contributed to it) they know exactly what it is they need to do. And that’s a good thing. Although I maintain we should all be okay with a bit of ambiguity, when you can provide a clear path for your team they can get on with what they are best at – producing great outcomes.

How to Start?

The method I use always involves ensuring the team agree on the shared vision (or purpose/ outcome) first. Often people walk into a planning session with a very different idea of what the initiative is looking to achieve. Getting alignment as soon as possible is critical. Often there are so many good ideas, a separate project may form as a result. The idea here is to have everyone laser focused on the one thing that will make the difference. When you have this ‘one thing’, everything else in the conversation focuses on it. I like writing it up on a whiteboard so it is visible and can also be revisited throughout the workshop if needed. We then work through the rest of the planning process – risk brainstorm, stakeholder and commitment analysis and scope definition, finishing with a high level timeline (I go into more detail on this in The Agile Project Manager).

Why Now?

It’s the end of the year, surely it’s time to wind down?

Absolutely not.

Now is the time to plan your year. When you plan now, you and your team go into Christmas with that shared vision in your heads and hearts. Then, with no effort on your part, your unconscious mind goes to work processing your planning outcomes, so that when you return from your holiday you are ready to go and hit the ground running. You are way ahead of your competition who chose instead to wind down before Christmas then start their planning in January. If you are planning your year in January, you are too late. Make the most of the energy and post holiday rejuvenation to kick start your year.

Take time to reflect

Part of your planning process should always include a reflection of the year past: What did you achieve? What did you not achieve? What could have been better? What do you need to focus on to improve? This reflection is best done at the end of the year when everything is fresh in your mind. It also ensures the team does not repeat the mistakes of the past. And focuses on the most important things, not just the initiatives that are top of mind right now.

Take Action

How was your 2016? What would you like to achieve in 2017? Take action now to achieve your goals, whether they be personal or for your team at work. There’s no time like the present.

I love this so much I have formed a business around helping people plan and achieve their results. Want to supercharge your results for next year? Contact me to talk about how I can help you and your teams.



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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.