Thinking about triggers in work plans

June 19, 2013

Filed under: Strategic Planning — jonathanpoisner @ 2:02 pm

I’ve previously written about the importance of generating work plans once wrapping up strategic planning.

One of the most useful tools in a work plan is the concept of triggers.

Too often work plans focus on end products without thinking through what other steps must be completed before a specific tactic can be accomplished.

One of my clients this summer, for example, is using “tabling” at public fairs/festivals as a tactic for the first time.  The initial work plan simply said: identify two tabling opportunities, recruit 5 volunteers and table.  Of course, it soon became clear that this also meant developing the necessary materials, setting up new systems to identify/train volunteers, finding a table/chairs, designing/printing a banner, etc.

Another client recently discussed with me her experience putting together the organization’s first corporate sponsorship packages for an event.  Because no work planning had happened, she hadn’t identified the triggers that had to be done in advance of actually asking corporations to sponsor (updated materials, agreement upon sponsorship levels, relationship-building, etc.).   The process therefore took her considerably longer than they had anticipated.

Rather than just creating a to-do list, good work planning identifies the outcomes you want and then works backwards to identify all the triggers or precursors that must be accomplished along the way.    In addition to making sure steps are done in the right order, on time, making explicit all the triggering steps that must first be taken is essential to make sure the work plan is making realistic assumptions about how much staff time a project will take.

More than once I’ve watched organizations go awry when they fail to plan in this way and find themselves 2-3 weeks out from a major milestone scrambling because a trigger wasn’t taken into account.

Occasionally, there are brilliant people whose minds can do this all in their head.

But for mortals like me and you, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is an essential step to make sure the work gets done in the right order on the right timeline.

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