Something I read about when I went through the Getting Things Done book was the Natural Planning Model. It’s pretty much a five step model to help you plan – anything. If you haven’t heard of the Natural Planning Model before, I’ll recap (it’s quite straightforward, and you can listen to David Allen explaining the Natural Planning Model here). It focuses on the fact that we are planning even the most simple things in our brains as we do them – anything from going shopping, to getting dressed, making dinner.
- Purpose – why are you doing this? What is the intention?
- Objective – what will the end result be? What’s the outcome?
- Brainstorming – what are all the ideas and things that will lead to the outcome from where you are now?
- Organisation – what are the relevant components in this instance? Put them into an order or sequence.
- Action – what do you need to do now?
As David himself comments, “well, duh“. This is really obvious to us when we think about it, because we’re doing it already! I really like that it’s simple, because why make planning more complicated than it needs to be? I’ve found that (in my short years in this profession) we often make a lot of assumptions based on preconceived frameworks and notions, like “that sounds like a technically complicated project, therefore it will be complicated to plan”, when really the technology is just an evolution from what we already know. How many people thought learning how to use an iPad would be complicated?
Interestingly though, when you aren’t using a model like the natural planning model, projects and activities can seem daunting and overwhelming, and we tend to focus on the minutiae (“so, now we’re going to need four green cables, and they will need to be 1,2, 4 and 10m long.. what do you mean, we can only get three cables? PANIC!”). The end result may also not look particularly like what we thought we’d end up with.
It’s a timely reminder because I’m pretty sure I mentioned “requirements gathering” about four times in a meeting today on four different agenda items, but thinking about it I think we really need to apply the whole planning model and go back to asking why we are considering things in the first place. Because everyone else is doing it? Because someone thought it was a good idea? (probably me.) Because it’s on sale? Probably a combination of all of the above.
The Natural Planning model is another good tool to keep in the toolkit. Is this a tool you use? I’d love to hear your comments.