Exploratory Planning

David Allen talks about the Natural Planning Model in his book Getting Things Done. It looks like this:

  1. Defining purpose and principles
    • Why is the project necessary? “Thinking about why helps you define success, create decision making criteria, align resources, generate motivation, clarifies thinking and expands options.”
    • What are the project constraints, in terms of resources, budget and policy? “Principles define the parameters for action and the criteria for excellence of behaviour.”
  2. Outcome visioning
    • What will the finished project look like? “When you focus on something… That focus instantly creates ideas and thought patterns you wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
  3. Brainstorming
    • Generate and capture thoughts about how to achieve the project goal. “The best way to get a good idea, is to get lots of ideas.” – Linus Pauling
    • Cognitive artifacts such as mindmaps, lists or Post-It notes are important tools for anchoring (and subsequently organising) your ideas.
  4. Organising
    • What are the most important elements to ensure the success of the project? By this point, assuming 3 has been implemented reasonably well, some sort of natural organisation should be occurring through the emergence of natural relationships and structure between your ideas. At this point you need to start components, events, sequences and priorities.
  5. Identifying next actions
    • What is the next action? “At some point, if the project is an actionable one, this next action decision must be made.” Answering the question about what specifically needs to be done next will test your thinking about the project. If you can’t answer, you haven’t fulfilled the previous steps adequately.

I thought I’d give it a try when planning my next test project. I’ll let you know how I get on in due course. In the meantime, if anybody else has tried out this approach I’d be interested to hear about it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out via a comment or on the socials if anything resonates.


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