Planning for 2021 How much time should I spend planning?

  • January 15, 2021

    Posted by: Tracy Douglass

    Planning for 2021 - How much time should I spend planning?

    As the song goes, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes; (Turn and face the strange). Facing the strange is such an interesting way to describe how the non-profit sector has been pivoting and shifting this past year, showing our nimbleness in times of turmoil. I know we are tired, but we can't let up yet. There's so much more to do.

    The exciting thing is that over the past year we've built up a great deal of experience on how to adjust and change very quickly. We've tried out new ideas, learned from mistakes, and because of this trial by error, our skills have improved. Looking back, we should all be proud of what we've accomplished.

    Although, didn't we all wish for more time to test the waters before jumping right in? Wouldn't it have been nice to have more time to anticipate change and plan?

    When writing this blog post, I did a quick search to see if there was a recommended ratio of time that we should spend planning vs time spent on doing. Scott Ambler, VP for Disciplined Agile, writes about the Agile-Driven Projects approach, and suggests a ratio of 1/5. However, every situation is unique. It was a given, though, that every project should have a plan, just that the plan should not prevent a project from starting. You can plan as you go!

    Three Agile planning tips:

    1. Plan in iterations - chunk your project into iterations or milestones and plan for the short-term ones in detail. As you approach the time for the next chunk, build in the details for that part
    2. Be uncomfortable - for high productivity, estimate how long you think a project or iteration will take and shave off some time. Uncomfortable timelines increase productivity and creativity; decisions get made with less time for bureaucracy.
    3. Avoid the Friday deadline - end of day Friday deadlines always turn into mid-morning Monday and productivity is significantly lower on Friday. Schedule deadlines for Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

    Spending some time anticipating different scenarios and how to respond to them will increase your response time. We do this all the time when we write policies. Its part of our culture and norms. The challenge is to plan for something with so many unknowns, like the end of a pandemic.

    So what's your plan, how will you be 'facing the strange' this year? I'd love to hear from you. Email me at and share your plan!


    Need some help planning for 2021? We've partnered with Volunteer Ottawa to bring you two workshops:

    Business Continuity Planning, includes working through a scenario, 2-part workshop: February 2 AND February 4, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM, $95

    Developing an Organizational Return to Work Plan, February 17, 2021, 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM, $50


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