“Top 10” Elements of a Good Plan

Published on October 12, 2010 in "Top Ten" Lists | No Comments

TeamReadiness defines a “plan” as: Tasks intended to produce a desired outcome, triggered by specific events but often opposed by forces that are both uncertain and outside our direct control. Plans frequently involve a number of people and require coordination amongst those people. There are many types of plans (e.g., Fire Safety Plan, Business Plan, Battle Plan, Weight Loss Plan, Career Plan, etc.). A Fire Safety Plan may be intended to safely evacuate or shelter people from a burning building. However, fire could block exits or an explosion could cause unforeseen damage that was not considered in the plan. Incidents often involve uncertain and unforeseen situations, beyond our span of control or predictability. With so much uncertainty, how do we construct a plan of any value? What are the contents of a good plan? What things need to be included in a plan to maximize its usefulness and effectiveness?

(rankings are in a suggested sequence for creating plans)

1. What is the Objective of the Plan?

  • What do you hope to achieve or accomplish; what is the end result?
  • What would be the successful outcome of the plan?
  • Are there specific, measurable, observable events or outcomes you want to achieve?
  • What is the value in having the plan or going through the process of creating the plan (e.g., identify gaps, improve readiness, past events that need to be addressed, case studies or statistics showing a need for this plan, etc.)?

2. What is the Trigger Point?

  • When does the plan get executed?
  • What has to happen that instructs people to begin following the plan?
  • What is the “fire alarm,” the signal, that tells people to perform the tasks defined in the plan?

3. What Tasks Need to be Done?

  • What are the step-by-step tasks that must be done to maximize the likelihood that the plans’ objectives will be achieve?
  • What are the specific procedures, analysis, responses that must be done?
  • Use the simple “5 Ws and H” guideline when defining a task — Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
  • These tasks are often defined by standard operating procedures, processes, and/or techniques.

4. What Contingencies Need to be Considered?

  • Contingencies are alternative tasks to be taken if the originally intended task cannot be done.
  • For example, a fire plan may call to exit the building by the stairwells. But the stairwells may be blocked by fire or debris. What do we do instead? What is the contingency?
  • For each task in the plan, it may be helpful to think of potential situations that would make it impossible to perform. Then formulate alternative tasks (contingencies) in the event that the original task cannot be taken.

5. Time Duration of Each Task

  • Each task must be realistic and feasible. Estimate and demonstrate the length of time it takes to complete each task. Ensure feasibility.
  • It is risky to have tasks that cannot be completed in the time required to achieve the plans objectives.
  • For example Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 121 requires demonstration that an, “…airplane with a seating capacity of more than 44 passengers…allows the evacuation of the full capacity…in 90 seconds or less.” The FAA wants to be sure that people may have a realistic chance to evacuate before they perish.

6. Task Sequence & Dependencies

  • Sequence – Put every task in chronological order for when they are to occur. Of course some task (perhaps many) will occur simultaneously.
  • Dependencies – Identify what task can only happen before or after other tasks (e.g., before fueling the gas tank, make sure it is diesel.).
  • With complex procedures or procedures involving many people, it is important to understand the dependencies so that people know exactly when they can perform their actions or what needs to happen before an action can occur.

7. Who is Responsible for Each Task?

  • Identify the specific people or job titles responsible for completing each task.
  • Include both internal (e.g., Engineering Department) and external (e.g., Fire Department) resources.
  • Every person assigned responsibilities in the plan must know his or her job and how to do it (TeamReadiness™ can help!).

8. Resources & Availability

  • Identify specific resources needed for the plan to work.
  • Resources include people, computers, online internet access, cell phones, tools, equipment, machines, etc.
  • Make sure all resources will be available when needed during plan execution. The plan should show the location and how to access or enter rooms, tools, machines, etc. needed.l
  • If there is a possibility of running out of something during plan execution, a “resupply” plan should be defined (e.g., What if we run out of water during a fire?).
  • “The right stuff, in the right place, at the right time, working and ready to go!”

9. Chain of Command

  • During plan execution, it is necessary to know who is in charge, how decisions will be made, and how disputes will be resolved.
  • Every person must know who they report to and/or who reports to them.
  • If people change duties or have to leave during plan execution, then there should a formal “transfer of duties” activity where the outgoing person communicates any necessary information and officially transfers his or her duties to the person taking over.

10. Communications

  • How will you communicate with your team during plan execution?
  • Make sure that all locations where people will be performing their tasks have access to the correct communications (e.g., in some locations, radios and cell phones don’t work).
  • Make sure that all people know how to communicate during plan execution…!


TeamReadiness™ can help!
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