Results Planning: A Vital Tool for Development Practitioners
Many of us who are engaged in development work always feel that there aren’t enough hours in a day. That will probably be true if you do not plan to achieve results. I would like to share a tool known as results planning which I believe will help improve your effectiveness, productivity and minimise distractions.
If you want to achieve more in any given time span, stop and reflect on what you’re doing. The chances are that you suffer from interruptions, a lack of planning and jumbled priorities.
The first question you should seek and answer is:
What am I doing?
Are you engaged in busyness or business? I am sure you often get caught up in completing tasks that you have documented in a to-do list or checklist. I am not saying that to-do lists are not useful. However, it is critical for you to ask yourself the following questions “What am I doing? Are the tasks I am undertaking leading to the desired result?
You should be more focused on the result you seek to achieve than the perceived activities that you hope will take you there. Getting a clearer picture of the end game will help you focus on what is most important.
We operate in an ocean of demand. Donors and development partners are demanding value for money and our beneficiaries are also expecting us to be more responsive and empowering. Therefore, we really do not have the luxury of focusing on activities at the expense of results.
The demands on us are always increasing. The more we achieve the more the demands increase. My favorite primary school teacher used to say, the price for achieving results is even more sleepless nights.
Another issue you will need to consider is:
Activity vs. Productivity
According to Peter Drucker, “Productivity for the knowledge worker means the ability to get the right things done. It means effectiveness. Knowledge work is defined by its results.”
As development workers it is imperative for us to distinguish activity from productivity. We should not confuse activity with achievement. Activity is not the same as productivity. Productivity is results-oriented activity.
Random activities may not be productive especially if they are not linked to your desired results. You can complete thousands of tasks but if they do not serve your goal, they will become distractions. The lesson here is to keep your eyes on the results. In development circles, this means envisioning a programme or project’s desired outputs, outcomes and impact.
The Three Questions
Results’ planning requires you to answer these three questions:
1.What is your end picture?
What will the programme or project look like when it’s done? This means you have to spend time envisioning the big picture instead of jumping into an endless series of to do’s.
2.What are the necessary conditions to realize your end picture?
A flower blooms under suitable conditions: a delicate balance of water, soil, and sunlight. It is your responsibility to determine the conditions that need to be in place for the end picture to come into full bloom. Brainstorm and strategically analyse the problem while keeping the end result firmly in mind.
3.What results-driven activities are needed to satisfy each condition?
Instead of asking, what do I need to do next? Ask, what is the result I’m after? Programme and project activities should move you closer to achieving your end picture. If it’s not, stop doing it and change your direction. Results planning helps you stay focused on what’s most important. It will also help you make smarter, quicker, clear and focused decisions.
Successful Change begins with Results
The key to the successful implementation of projects and programmes is to focus on producing measurable results. Programme and projects are easily derailed when the focus is activity-centered. Too often the focus of the programming of civil society organisations and development institutions are centered on activities rather than results, and the end becomes confused with the means, or, processes with outcomes.
Results planning should produce quick measurable gains. Accountable leaders or managers are responsible for producing results, whether being measurable improvement in performance or lessons learned.
To achieve results through planning set specific, measurable improvement goals and match resources, tools, and action plans to the requirements of accomplishing success.
* The Author, Charles Kojo Vandyck is WACSI’s Capacity Building Officer. His twitter handle is @kojoabroba
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