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How to Organize Interactive Planning Session (Part B)

In the previous article I explain how you should organize your Interactive Planning Session. If you have adequately prepared yourself for the IAP, the rest is very easy to handle. Just before starting with a brief list of actions you need to do during your IAP session, bear in mind that like any other interactive workshop, without having a leader the IAP session will end up in chaos. You are the planner and you know better than everyone what your intention of this session is. So take the lead and make sure that discussions are in line with your strategy and target.

With this mentality, now you are ready to start the session:

 Start the session:

Especially when you have a big team of internal and external participants, it could be beneficial if you start your meeting with a brief introduction of the attendees. While people are introducing themselves, have a presence list and tick the name of participants. You will need this list for preparing the MOM after the meeting.  After introduction, as the host of the meeting, explain your approach and the agenda of the IAP session. Make sure that the attendees know how you will proceed with the session.

 Continue with the session

In some of the texts about interactive workshops, the term “Facilitator” is used for the one who is responsible for leading the workshop. By thinking more deeply about the meaning of this term you exactly understand what your role should be during the session. You are supposed to “facilitate” the discussion. Always bear in mind that stake holders should plan their own job. So you should always be careful not to dictate a plan to your team; instead, help them to bring their thoughts on paper and plan their own job!

The method that you are using for data collection during IAP depends on the strategy which you have selected in preparation stage. But the general idea is to ask team members to plan their main activities and show them in a timeline taking to account the interactions with other stakeholders’ activities, inputs/outputs and any internal/external constraints.

You start with people who their scope of work feeds other disciplines or has the highest interaction with the other activities. (Refer to the priority list preparation explained in the previous article). As I said your role is to facilitate the planning process. Do you role by asking smart and purposeful questions about interactions with other stakeholders and being alert for identifying and bringing up the conflicts. The result of this process should be illustrated in your prepared timeline. You may use digital or wall-paper calendars. No matter which one you use, the concept is the same.

In traditional method, team members plan their activities by writing them on colored sticky notes (Different colors for different disciplines) and paste them in proper date on a paper calendar hanged on the wall. When the stakeholder with the highest position in the priority list is finished with planning of his/her activities on the calendar, ask the other people to respectively do the same, considering the activities which are already planned. Again you should be alert to identify wherever the new activities’ required duration or time frame is conflicting with the previously planned activities or with the other constraints. If a conflict accrued try to bring it up to be resolved. You continue this practice for all the action holders.

During the session some points may become highlighted as areas of risk or concern. Also some of the conflict points may seem not to be resolvable immediately and team members may believe they need more time to find a solution for them. Have a separated board to write down all of these points. At the end of the meeting make sure you go through this list and together with the team identify the relevant action holders and the planned dates for further discussions or required actions.

Once again, don’t forget your role as the lead in the session. The IAP is based on people’s interaction. Therefore, a lot of discussions may occur. Well, that is what we expect but we need relevant discussions! You are responsible for leading the discussions toward your IAP target. My emphasis on this role of a planner in the IAP session comes from the fact that sometimes, professional people (for example engineers) tend to talk about too technical things which are not necessarily related to the session target. You should stop these kinds of discussions and draw attentions back to the topic.  

Closing the session  

After all the discussions and before ending the session, go through the action points and together with the team determine who and when will take those actions. Then you are done with the session. Just one step before leaving the meeting room is to make sure that all the gathered information is saved correctly! If you use digital calendars (like Excel file or Scheduling Software) make sure that you save the data. If you use the paper calendar and sticky notes, it is safer if you use a tape to fix the sticky notes on the paper. It would be helpful if you make digital photo of it and also your board of action points. When you made sure that you safely collected the data you are done with the session!

After the session

The last step before starting with developing schedule is to prepare minute of meeting for your IAP session and sending it out to the participants and any other responsible/relevant people. This MOM would be the base for your scheduling and you can use it later on for preparing the schedule basis document. In your MOM you should mention the purpose of the session, the assumptions, outcomes, concerns and action points. Make sure you attach also a copy of the calendar with the planned activities on it.

When you sent out the MOM, you have successfully finished an Interactive Planning Session and you have the data you require to develop your schedule. Now you can start with schedule development …

* This article is the third and last part of series of articles about “Interactive Planning”.Please read the previous parts  following these links:

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