How to hit the ground running in 2024
Read time: 3.5 minutes
I asked a client this week how he was intending to finish 2023.
He answered, “By getting the team together and having our annual review.”
It was a trick question
While there’s value in reviewing and learning from the past, I prefer spending valuable time planning the future.
A fairer question would have been how he intended to prepare for 2024.
The best way to hit the ground running in a new year is to have a plan on day 1.
The best way to create a plan is to do it as a team before the year ends.
So today, I’ll show you the 6 steps of creating a powerful team plan for 2024.
By mastering this workshop, you will create clarity across your team on exactly what will happen in 2024.
Here’s how to create a plan as a team, step by step:
Step 1 - Agree on scope and timeline
Before putting pen to paper, you need to decide as a group whether it is a team plan, project plan, multiple projects plan or something else.
What’s in and what’s out?
How far in the future will we plan? The first 6 months of 2024? 9 months?
Tip: Keep the timeline less than 12 months. Anything more is a waste of time because things like macro world events get in the way.
Create your plan framework with your timeline across the top and blank “swim lanes” for potential workstreams.
Step 2 - Identify workstreams
What’s a workstream?
For convenience, these are ways of dividing up the work.
They may reflect the responsibilities of different stakeholders in the project, or they might reflect the different but related functions that make up the solution.
Example: If your project was all about moving house, you could think of different workstreams that correspond to the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders such as vendor, purchaser, solicitor, estate agent, building society, etc.)
Label the workstreams.
If your team is large enough split them up and assign each to a workstream.
Minimum 2 people per group (so they can challenge each others thinking).
Step 3 - Identify key milestones
Start populating the plan by identifying key milestones.
These are events, deliverables or decision points that symbolize significant achievements along the timeline.
In the example of moving house, these might be ‘making an accepted offer’; ‘exchange of contracts’; ‘completion’; etc.
Use square post-it notes to represent the milestones and rotate them in a diamond shape. Write the identity of the milestone on the Post-it.
The picture below shows a series of four milestones in the workshop delivery swim lane – each representing the delivery of one workshop.
In the workshop outputs workstream, there are two milestones that represent an interim draft report and the final report, respectively.
Step 4 - Fill in activities
Complete the plan by using Post-it notes to represent activities (for clarity, each workstream is assigned a different colour).
Activities are the work that must be done to meet the planned milestones.
Using a string of Post-it notes, you can represent the planned duration of each activity, from start to finish.
Use a marker pen to identify the activities with a label.
Step 5 - Add any dependencies
Finally, indicate where the start or finish of one activity depends on another by drawing lines between them. These are your dependencies.
So if on activity overruns, you can see what impact that has on depending activities.
Step 6 - Challenge thinking
If, in Step 2, you split the team up across the workstreams, let them challenge and inform each other until the final plan is settled.
This results in a far more rigorous plan and builds ownership of the plan as a whole going forward.
If you have lots of time, then by all means, do a review of 2023 before your plan for 2024.
But if you only have time for one, go with the plan and let the past influence the future subliminally.
This is how great teams and organizations get ready for a new year.
They don’t only drink gluhwein and munch down on mince pies.
They build a smart robust plan of action and come back after the break ready to take their market by storm.
I hope you found this short planning workshop useful.
See you soon!
Final tip: Never give one person (or yourself) the job of plan creation. They never work.
Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you: