Planning is a difficult thing to do, but it's a huge part of design.
Some designers might even say that planning is design.
To make a good plan, you have to have at least a fuzzy idea of where you're going.
How do you do that?
When I teach workshop design at the Fountain Institute, I used to ask students to list their workshop outcome at the beginning of the course.
Sounds simple enough, but it didn't work. Students didn't know where they wanted to end up, and asking them to state outcomes ended up frustrating them.
So I came up with this planning process to help. I think it could be useful for any kind of project planning.
3 Ways to Better Plans
A good workshop or project plan has three things in common:
- A change occurs
- over a period of time
- from internal or external motivation
You need to know what change you want to occur from the beginning (initial state) to the end (target state) to understand how to support that change.
Some projects will have a very fuzzy target state. That's ok. Writing that target state is the first step to getting there. And it's a much better use of your time than simply listing what you will do in the plan.
When planning a UX project, you might want to plan a meeting with stakeholders to present your research results. Rather than calling it, "Research Presentations" you start to plan for the change to better understand the why behind the presentation. After a bit of thought, you land at, "We want to turn unsorted research data into prioritized problems." By listing the change, you now see that there are multiple ways to reach that target state. You decide to do an affinity mapping workshop with the stakeholders instead. The change is the difference between simply stating a random "what" and understanding the "why."
What time will we have to make this change? 1 hour? 1 week? The time will drastically affect the project.
The change depends on how much time we have. If you don't ask about time before planning, you might be wasting your time.
You want to run a series of UX strategy workshops with your team so that you can collaboratively create a UX strategy. Unfortunately, your manager says you have to do the project in a single four-hour session. Your workshop plan will have to change drastically to accommodate a time block of four hours. Luckily, you asked about time, and you didn't waste a week preparing six workshops.
Every plan has a motivation. It might be an internal motivation coming from you alone, or it might be an external motivation coming from the market.
Understanding the motivation will help you understand how to plan. Projects with clear motivations have less chance to go off-track because you're aligning expectations early.
Your boss wants you to design a smartwatch version of your app. In your plan, you assume that the external motivation is your users are requesting smartphone watches. After reviewing the plan, your boss informs you that it has nothing to do with user requests. Actually the marketing team wants to market to smartwatch wearers. Knowing this, you have a much better idea how to plan the project.
Understanding the motivation improves the others because you will also understand the change to be made and the time you should invest to get it.
Hopefully, this simple framework can help you next time you have to plan a workshop or a big project.
Until next week!
Educator & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute
P.S. If you want to know the next steps to designing unique workshops and the skills needed to facilitate your team to success, then you still have time to sign up for our Facilitating Workshops 22-day course.
Deadline to signup is tomorrow, Friday Oct. 28th, at midnight!