Successful program planning, and the art of preparation

Program planning is a bit like backpacking

Planning for and building a program or project is kinda like preparing for a backpacking trip. I’m not talking about driving a Ford Expedition into a campground with a backpack in the trunk, I’m talking about legitimate hike-in-10-miles-and-setup-basecamp sorta adventures. I often daydream about where I’ll go on my next backpacking adventure, what I’ll pack, and how I’ll use the resources. It’s the same way I think about preparing for projects and programs.

Get ready

Getting ready for a trip or a program isn’t hard (purchasing gear just requires money and time). What’s difficult about the preparation is thinking of all possible situations that you could encounter along the way, and preparing just enough resources, advice, and supplies to both meet the demands of the journey, and organize everything in a way that makes retrieving resources easy and efficient. Of course, burdening others (teammates) as little as possible while on the route and leaving things as pristine (if not better) as you found them is also important.

Seek advice from other trailblazers

Every trail is unique and every program is too, however, there’s plenty to learn from experiences that others have while walking similar paths and standing up similar programs.

Before, during, and after launch, meet with friends and colleagues who have stood up other programs. The key is to learn from and teach each other things that will help level-up each other’s program planning game.

Build by partnering with future program users

Bring customers and partners into planning, production, and launch processes. Your customers and partners will appreciate getting to help shape what you build, and you’ll be able to create a program that is tuned for success right out of the gate.

Keep an eye on risks and contingencies

No, there’s absolutely no way to account for every contingency or possible risk in creating something new. Heck, there’s not a way to absolutely account for every contingency or risk in repeating a process. However, brainstorming and planning for the majority of risks builds a cache of thinking that is easier to adapt in the inevitable event of an anomaly along the way. A great place to start is to use a planning document like this one from Atlassian.

The path to launch will never be straightforward

If you think you’ll plan a project perfectly the first time, you’ll be disappointed. In-fact, if you think you’ll do it perfectly when you’re an expert, you’ll be wrong again. Standing up a program, successfully completing a massive project, and backpacking all have one thing in common:

Your ability to adapt in planning and execution is the best predictor of a successful launch.

Happy program planning, and let me know some of your tips and resources. I’ll update here with relevant and quality links from the comments.

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