Planning is central to the attainment of all goals. It's true for short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.
It is often said that people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.
Many community groups have a wealth of experience running effective planning meetings, understanding group dynamics, and coming to a resolution to attain goals. This kind of knowledge and experience is essential for effective and sustainable local heritage activity.
Following are the key subjects, processes and issues to keep in mind when a group of people needs to formulate ideas and select a course of action:
- Objectives must first be established; outline your goals and outcomes
- Objectives must be classified and placed in order of importance
- Alternative actions must be developed; often via brainstorming
- Alternatives must be evaluated against the objectives, via pros and cons
- The alternative that is able to achieve all the objectives is the tentative decision
- The tentative decision is evaluated for more possible consequences
- The final plan is adopted.
Consensus decision-making tries to avoid "winners" and "losers." Consensus requires that a majority approve a given course of action, but that the minority agree to go along with the course of action. In other words, if the minority opposes the course of action, consensus requires that the course of action be modified to remove objectionable features.
While it is often not feasible to engage a facilitator for planning meetings, it is possible to employ some standard techniques for this role:
- Facilitation concerns itself with all the tasks needed to run a productive and impartial meeting
- Facilitation serves the needs of a group which is meeting with a common purpose, whether it be making a decision, solving a problem, or simply exchanging ideas and information
- It does not lead the group, nor does it try to distract or entertain.
It is important to note that the tasks and responsibilities listed below do not need to be covered by a single facilitator. The role of the facilitator is often shared by multiple people, for instance one person may arrange the logistics before the meeting, another person may keep time and monitor the agenda during the meeting, and a third person may be responsible for recording agreements.
Prior to a meeting, facilitators:
- research the meeting before it happens
- find out the purpose and goal (if any) of the meeting
- establish who needs to attend
- draw up a draft agenda and design the group processes to attain the necessary results
- share the agenda with potential attendees, changing it as necessary
- ensure everyone gets fully briefed for the meeting and that everyone knows the purpose and potential consequences of the meeting
During the meeting, facilitators:
- monitor the agenda
- keep time
- manage the group process
- encourage participation from all attendees
- help participants understand different points of view
- foster solutions that incorporate diverse points of view
- manage participant behaviour
- create a safe environment
- teach new thinking skills and facilitate structured thinking activities
- record agreements, with an agreed phraseology
- note unresolved issues for later debate
Once a plan has been formulated it will be necessary for the group to develop the details that typically attend any proposed action; sometimes this is the work of a subcommittee:
- Be specific about the outcome you are trying to achieve for each of the implementation projects
- What are you really trying to do by working on this particular project?
- Set a timeline with milestones for each implementation aspect. This keeps people on track.
- Identify who is responsible for leading the particular implementation aspect.
- Set a financial budget and identify where these resources are coming from for each implementation aspect and track how the budget is spent.
- Identify a way to measure outcomes to determine whether success is achieved.