Things Go Better With Planning – Three Proven Processes


For many of us, sometime over the next few months, we begin to think about how we want our next year to be (i.e., plan!). If you are working with your own team, it’s likely that you will make planning for your upcoming year a high priority. Some of you will be doing a simple goals and objectives setting exercise. Others will be doing an in-depth strategic planning process. However, how often do you take your own personal planning seriously? I am guessing you rarely take the time to do this. So….

I’d like to share my three favorite work-life planning tools that I use on myself as an individual. The added bonus of doing this individually every year is that you are more likely to become much more competent in offering these tools to groups.  And, you have the pleasure and benefit of crafting a meaningful life for yourself.  All the tools I use are very visual because most of us are visual learners.  It stays in our long term memory more than just using words. Below I give a short description of three tools with lots of photos. You’ll also get a couple of links to find out more information about each of these processes.  And there’s always one thing I do before I start planning…

The one thing I do before I start planning…

Is do an inventory of my past year’s activities. It is like an environmental scan of my life. This year my long-time office colleague, Errin and I reviewed our big wall calendar and put happy and sad faces on all of the different activities. We put green sticker dots for events that had a lot of positive impact and may be ones that we want to do more of…green for “go”.  Events that had more of a neutral impact on us or the business had a yellow dot. They were probably worth repeating next year but needed some tweaking or refining to make them more enjoyable and offer us more return on our time/effort investment. The red faces were sad. They simply may mean that there was something that stopped us in our tracks or left us wanting to completely reevaluate how we would do these activities again. We used red for the concept of stopping. We borrowed this traffic light (green, yellow, red) concept from Bob Wiele’s OneSmartWorld leadership and facilitation tools.

Environmental Scan of Year

Tool #1 – ToP Strategic Planning

My all-time favorite tool is the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning model both for groups and for myself. It consists of doing an environmental scanning process as noted above, first followed by a visioning process. Then what is unique about this framework is that you take time to dig really deep with what gets in the way of your vision. (Hint: It’s never about time or money or “lack of” anything.)  It is often about attitudes, perceptions, systems, etc. Once you have identified your obstacles and have named some as contradictions (i.e., two opposing things are true), you can then be strategic in brainstorming substantial “tried and true” as well as “bold and new” actions that overcome your obstacles and move you toward your vision. You cluster actions of similar intent into 2-4 strategic directions. That gives you your strategic priorities. The final step is to create some very measurable one year accomplishments and then action plans to achieve the accomplishments.

This process takes me a few half day sessions to complete on my own. I often do it with other colleagues. We each work on our own plan and give each other feedback as we work along side one another. This particular tool might be a little daunting if you don’t take the time to do this level of planning normally. I typically only do this form of planning only every 2-3 years. It keeps me very focused and strategic over those years. And you can take this Strategic Planning course throughout the world. Just look up the Institute of Cultural Affairs training courses. Here is a photo of using many colored post-its of the entire process on one piece of flipchart paper.


Tool #2 – Grove Consultants Personal Compass

My second favorite tool is a large coil bound book containing a set of graphic templates that the Grove Consultants Group has produced. It has seven steps, including: starting point, history, measuring how you spend your time, inventory of strengths and weaknesses, vision, choices (to determine your outcomes), and action plans. I like to work with post-it notes and colored pens in the booklet and often add notes to it from year to year. This is a fairly time consuming process as well but very personally fulfilling. Again, I often do this with other colleagues. I think it’s time for me to buy a new book and start over again. But the book I have, has lasted me several years. See bottom of article for a link to where to purchase.


Tool #3 – The P.A.T.H. Planning Process

This is a graphic process as well. It is much better if you have someone facilitate your P.A.T.H. (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope). It is an eight step process that consists of setting your vision, establishing positive and possible specific one year goals, reviewing your current state (pluses and minuses of your current situation), listing who you would like to enroll to help you meet your goals, listing the things you need to strengthen to do this, and then coming up with a 3 month, 1 month and next day action plan.  It’s probably the quickest of the three processes noted here. It’s very powerful if you have a facilitator and a few of your trusted family, friends or colleagues to witness the process with you. We do this with both groups and individuals. See this link for more details on the process.


Give Yourself Reflection Time

Feel free to mix and match. The most important thing is that you do sit down and give yourself some reflection time. You could simply review your year, reflect on highs and lows of the year, analyze what you want to be different for your next year, and then create a list of projects that would give you great value and meaning. You might then create a collage of magazine photos that represent the life you are trying to create. See mine below. I’ve also written about the power of reflection, along with guidance on how to do it in Chapter 7 of the book, Power of Facilitation. Get the free download link in the Resource section.

Have fun! Let me know what you do. Have a good few weeks until year end!



ToP Approaches to Environmental Scanning

ToP Strategic Planning Online

ToP Strategic Planning – 2 Day In-Person
Check for dates!

The Grove Consultants Personal Compass

The Power of Facilitation
I contributed Chapter 7 on “The Power of Facilitation for Self-Reflection, Change and Personal Growth”. Available for free download here.

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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