Effective Planning and Execution

I have frequently faced situations where people want to do something, but they don’t know precisely how. There are lots of books and methods that discuss how to do proper planning and execution. But, I will say that regardless of how many books and web pages you read, you can summarize the planning and execution activities using the model in Figure 1. Which I will explain in detail in this post. Once you get the grip of it, your planning and execution skills will increase.

Figure 1: Planning and Execution Model

Planning:

Purpose: Often, people hinder this part, but without really understanding why we are doing what we are doing, we cannot focus on the results we want to achieve. An adequate purpose definition shall as specific as possible and answer the what, why, and sometimes even the when we need to perform what we want to achieve. Some people even like to describe specific numbers, but I usually leave it for a later stage.

Figure 2: Purpose as the first step for planning

Let’s make up an example; suppose you want to introduce a new methodology called SUPPLE 2.0 in your organization to improve the product development process. The purpose sentence would go something like this:

To introduce the SUPPLE 2.0 Methodology across the R&D Organization to improve the product development cycle by incrementing the delivery efficiency and reducing waste by 20%, and increase the organization’s profitability by 40%

There are several places where you can find how to create purpose statements, but the general characteristics are (Zent, n.d.):

  • Specific and precise
  • Concise
  • Clear
  • Goal-oriented

Task Identification: Once we know the purpose we identify want to do, we recognize the task or tasks that we need to perform to achieve the purpose.

Figure 3: Tasks identification as the second step for planning

It is a common mistake to define tasks and execute them without clarifying the purpose. Although some people may claim that this provides agility, the lack of an overall purpose or a high-level target generates inefficiencies throughout the task development if the people who will implement the tasks don’t have a clear target.
Coming back to our example, let’s assume that after brainstorming, we came out with the following list of tasks.

Figure 4: Main tasks needed to implement Supple 2.0

Having this granularity, we can now define what are the main activities we need to perform. There is no sequence defined yet, but a high level breakdown structure.

Transformation Process: The third step is to define how we are going to perform the tasks, to do so, we identify the activities in a sequential and logical order; its granularity will depend on the complexity and the ease of assignment and execution. Too detailed will lead to commonly changing activities that can’t be followed, too generic will omit important activities needed to complete each task.

Once we have the activities with a certain sequence, we allocate a target date for each one of them in order to implement the purpose we defined on time.

Figure 5: The transformation process is the third step for planning

In Figure 6, I further developed the example. First, I created some priority between the tasks (numbers) to define which activities can be performed sequentially and which ones in parallel. Then, I asked a series of questions for each task to create a good definition of the steps needed to create the task. Last but not least, I defined a target date to complete the task.

Figure 6: Transformation process to implement Supple 2.0

Functional Capacity: Once we know how we will perform the task and have broken it down into activities, we need to determine the required resources to execute the different tasks and perform them. How many people do we need? How much money do we need? What kind of tools do we need? These are the questions that we need to answer in this part of the methodology.

Figure 7: Functional capacity as the last step for planning

We are all set. We created a plan, and now we can lay it out in Microsoft Project or any other tool if needed.

Figure 8: Functional capacity for Supple 2.0 implementation

The four basic steps for planning are in the clockwise sequence as shown in Figure 9:

First, we identify what’s the purpose of what we want to do, then we define the tasks, once we know them, we identify by when we need them, and last, we determine what is required.

Figure 9: We plan clockwise

Execution:

Once we have the entire plan, we know what we need. It is now time to execute it. So how do we make a successful execution?

We move from left to right, as shown in Figure 10.

First, we need to ensure we have all the resources available to execute our tasks. Second, we need to acquire all the functional capacity we defined and identify feasible substitutes to it if required.

Then, we start executing the plan step by step according to the deadlines until we finalize the task.

Once we have finalized the tasks, we will satisfy the defined purpose for performing all the jobs.

Figure 10: We execute counterclockwise.

Following these simple steps you’ll guarantee to have a robust planning and execution process.

Next time you want to start a new project, think about this model. Once you get familiar with it, your execution and planning skills will dramatically improve.

References:

Zent, E. (n.d.). Writing Effective Purpose Statements. University of Washington. https://faculty.washington.edu/ezent/imwps.htm

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Citizen of the World, systems thinker, automotive embedded systems leader, and language lover. I write about what’s in my head and keeps me awake.

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Cesar Guadarrama

Cesar Guadarrama

Citizen of the World, systems thinker, automotive embedded systems leader, and language lover. I write about what’s in my head and keeps me awake.

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