What’s the difference between a good plan and a poor plan?

For me, a good plan is a bit like a newspaper article’s first paragraph… it answers six key questions. For a time in my youth I wanted to be a journalist, and learned that the first paragraph of an article (which is actually the first sentence) should always answer the Who, Why, What, Where, When and How of the story. So let’s apply that to a good plan:


WHY: Vision

Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s the ultimate outcome you want to achieve? It’s so easy for teams and organizations to lose sight of this, and yet it’s so key that everyone on the team has clarity and agreement on what the desired ultimate outcome actually is, otherwise you’ll end up pulling in different directions. This question should frequently be referred back to, so people are reminded of why the team or organization actually exists.


WHAT: Mission

So when you know the WHY, you can focus more on the WHAT. Actually this is often the thing that comes first… people have an idea they want to start running with, and other people then start to ask the WHY question. I don’t think it really matters which comes first though, provided you have a clear answer to both of them.


HOW: Actions

Here is where we get into the action plan. When you’ve settled on WHAT it is you’re doing, break that down into HOW it will get done. What are all the different steps required to make it happen. List them out, and then put them in the order they need to be done.


WHO: People

Once you have the action steps, it’s time to assign a team member who is responsible for making each one is done. So for each HOW that you listed, write down WHO is in charge of it. Who are the people you have on the team, and what are their individual skills? Where should they each best be utilised? And then what gaps do you still have, where you will need to recruit other skilled people? Giving clear ownership to individuals, whilst making sure they realise exactly how their part fits into the bigger picture, is one of the key skills of leadership.


WHEN: Time

Again, for each of those steps, write down WHEN it needs to be done. And not just when it needs to be done by, i.e. the deadline for final completion. That’s important to know. But having worked that out, schedule WHEN the action should actually be done (obviously in conversation with the person WHO has been put down as responsible for it).


WHERE: Money

Maybe this one is me cheating a little, but this is WHERE is the money going to come from? How much will it cost, and how will you raise all of that revenue? It’s not a geographical where, it’s a financial where.


In this way, you’ll create a good plan that covers the key issues of Vision, Mission, Actions, People, Time and Money, by answering the WHY, WHAT, HOW, WHO, WHEN and WHERE of what you’re trying to achieve.

Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.

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