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Jack Dunigan

Quality Insider

Seven Traits of a Great Planner

But if you had to describe these traits with one word, it’s practicality

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 11:25

It’s time to become small minded. Visionaries are big thinkers. Planners may make big plans but they think small. They take the grand scheme and turn it into smaller steps.

Planners are comprehensive thinkers whose skill sets include the ability to break schemes and visions into increments, and whose experience has shown them the necessity to be rational and realistic. Fantasy thinkers will soon get themselves into big trouble here, so practicality is the key word.

I want a big thinker to formulate vision, and I want that same big thinker to leave the planning process to people who can be real and realistic. Here are the seven key traits of an effective planner:

First, an effective planner can take a project apart and divide it into realistic tasks. These tasks can be assigned to a responsible party and given a realistic deadline. They understand that the greatest of structures is put up one piece at a time. And they can install warning points along the way to keep things on track and on schedule (i.e., reminders that certain things need to start, certain things need to end, certain tasks need to be completed).

Second, they function in the “now” and in the “then.” They think and work short-term and long-term. Effective planners use whatever tools they need to maintain progress toward the ultimate objective. Daily tasks lists are coordinated with and subordinated to annual, quarterly, monthly, and weekly calendars.

Third, they don't wait until deadlines approach to begin. They start early because experience has taught them almost nothing goes off as planned and if anything can go wrong, it will.

Fourth, effective planners never work in isolation. They use the considerable skills and insights of others who could be in a position to add insight, understanding, and information.

Fifth, they are good delegators. The larger the plan, the more people needed to fulfill the objectives. Micromanaging will torpedo everything. There will be too much to do. Remember that your circle of concern is always bigger than your circle of ability.

Sixth, effective planners are tenacious, but not hardheaded. They know how to focus on the target and responsibly pursue it. But, they are not so infatuated with their own ideas and plans that they become inflexible and rigid. Plans often need revising so “Plan B” is ready. Effective planners can think on their feet and make revisions as needed without losing sight of the objective or compromising the project.

Seventh, they never promise more than they can deliver. Some workers (and in some cultures) it is considered rude and uncaring to tell a superior or co-worker anything except what they think the other person wants to hear. But this is a dangerous practice. Effective leaders never suffer sycophants or yes men. Never. Effective planners never engage in such foolish acts either. Never!

Now, it’s time to be honest. If you meet these seven criteria, great! If not? Well, you know what you have to do. Find someone who does. The vision is far too precious to risk anything, so get the best planners you can find to help you bring it into being.

First published April 28, 2014, on The Practical Leader.

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About The Author

Jack Dunigan’s picture

Jack Dunigan

For more than four decades, Jack Dunigan has been leading, consulting, training, and writing. His experience is varied and comprehensive. His training and consulting clients are as varied as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Supreme Court to a top-rated campsite management company. But his advice is not merely academic. His blog, www.ThePracticalLeader.com, is focused on practical advice for leaders and managers of businesses, corporations, nonprofit agencies, families, organizations, departments, anywhere and anytime a person leads others. His latest book is Three Absolutely Necessary, Always Present Skills of an Effective, Successful Leader (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2012).