Introducing the Simple Planning Tool

The Simple Planning Tool is our solution to simplifying the process of going from idea to action. It's at this point in a project, strategy, or change effort that we see people and teams get stuck.

Its companion is the Personal Leadership Canvas and it’s based on the same orientation within time and space.

Why this Tool?

We have found that much of the conflict we see on teams comes from overly complex planning processes and differing definitions of terms like "goals," "milestones," and even "plan." Seriously. These small misunderstandings of the meanings of common terms accumulate and derail meetings and strategies. Think of it in terms of a flight path metaphor; if something knocks you off course by a few degrees, you'll be way off course as you accelerate through time and space. This is why we build our tools so that they are oriented in the same framework of time and space.

There are four questions at the center of this tool

  1. What do you want to create?
  2. What needs to happen?
  3. What will you do to meet those needs?
  4. Why is this important?

These four questions relate to the four elements of the tool. What's important is the clarity of each answer and the relationship between the elements. Before you get to the elements, it's important to define the context.

Set the Context


What larger strategy is this plan a part of? Are you working to build a stronger culture within your organization? Are you planning an annual staff retreat and want to ensure that there's increased cohesion on your team afterward? Are you mapping out your quarterly sales goals? Whatever the context is, define it, give it a name.

Example: Organizational Culture Change

Start Date

This is the date that you will begin taking action on your plan. Often it's also the same day that you are using this tool.

April 1, 2016

Time frame

This is the time frame in which your plan will be executed. Pick something and stick to it. Three months? One year? Thirty years?

One year: April 2016 - March 2017

Define the Elements

1. Vision

Your vision is a future state of being. What does this future state look, feel, and behave like? What are the outcomes? Describe it in detail. What's important here is that you and your team actively imagine a future state being within the same context.

In one year, our organization's culture will be...

2. Needs

In order to actualize this vision, what do you need and what needs to occur? Some needs will be more complex than others and involve dynamics that are out of your control. You will be able to meet some needs on your own, some will require the help of others, some will be a whole team effort. Define needs in relation to each aspect of the vision.

In order for our organization's culture to be... we will need...

3. Commitments

Strong commitments equate to clearly defined action over some amount of time and relate to specific needs. Both variables of time and action are critical. Make actions specific and achievable and define both the frequency and duration of time for each commitment.  Commitments are the exact things that you will do to meet each need.

To ensure that ... occurs, I / we will ... once per ... for the next ... months.

4. Purpose

If your organization has a defined core purpose, write that down. If your team has a defined purpose, write that down too. At minimum, answer the question: why is this strategy important to you and the organization? While vision is a future state, purpose is always in the present as you move through time and space. Action starts here. Pressure test each of your commitments to ensure that they relate back to purpose. The likelihood of follow through will increase if every action is rooted in a deep sense of purpose.

How it Works

We designed this tool to be something that you can use on your own or with your team. You can use it to develop what you defined in the Personal Leadership Canvas and you can use it with your team to plan how you'll execute on your strategy. Be specific and clear with what you define for each element.

We hope this tool helps you understand exactly what it takes to achieve your vision and execute your plan with a deep sense of purpose. Have fun with it and let us know how it works for you.

Download the Simple Planning Tool.






Caleb DeanComment