Planning Takes Too Long

“Planning takes too long. Let’s just get started.”

For most of us, the joy of a project is in the result: the finished product. We may even feel too busy to go through the process of creating a clear plan, wanting to ‘hit the ground running’. But how do you know if you’re running in the right direction? When we start coaching a new church to implement a change, we make a plan. Usually this is a pretty detailed plan with lots of tasks, dependent steps, dates … the whole bit. We often get feedback that this planning process takes too long and they just want to get started. But in my mind, planning equals speed. I know that sounds contradictory, but the key is whether you are in a hurry to start, or to finish

What’s the Hurry?

If you are in a hurry to start a project, then planning is indeed a waste and should be ignored. However, let’s first ask what is driving us to be in a hurry.  Here are some common reasons we hear: 

  • I have to show ____ I am making progress.
  • If we have a plan, we will be forced to follow it, and I want to be more flexible.
  • I am new here and need to show them I know what I am doing.
  • You just can’t plan this type of work.
  • I am an action-oriented person. All this talking just wears me out.

None of those hold water in my mind; they are excuses. There is a time, when exploring a brand new thing nobody has ever done, that plans can be fairly  vague and loose. In fact, sometimes projects are entering into such an unknown territory that making a meaningful plan can be a waste of your time. However, those cases are the exception, not the rule. 

How Does Planning Make Us Faster?

There are four key benefits to a solid plan.

A good plan clarifies direction, scope, and the value of a project before you begin. How many times have you started a project that seemed like a good idea, only to realize halfway through that you can’t even remember why the project was so important? Planning allows you to firm up those reasons and success criteria early. Sometimes creating a plan helps you to realize the project isn’t even worth doing. You just saved yourself and your team a ton of time! The last thing any of us needs in our busy lives is a project we shouldn’t be doing.

A good plan helps us stay focused. This is my favorite reason to make a plan, because I can get so easily distracted. I need tools to help me think only about what is relevant right now. Debating about the color of the carpet in the new sanctuary is not worthwhile when you should be focused on the location of the new building and buying the land.

A good plan helps us to avoid rework. Have you ever heard the phrase “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing over again”? While I have always enjoyed that adage, It bothers me that we behave that way so frequently. Think of the time and costs associated with having to go back and redo something — you could have avoided that rework if you had a good plan. A plan should help you do work in the ‘right’ order. Some tasks can be accomplished any time; others have steps that have to be completed first before moving to the next. A planned workflow can help you be efficient and continue to make progress toward your goal. Think of your new church building: pouring the foundation before you have decided where the electrical and plumbing go would be a real mistake. You would have to tear it out and pour more concrete later when you really had a design. In fact, I worked with a church that failed to think about how they were going to run sound and video cables between the stage and the sound booth, so had to tear up concrete in the floor to lay down cables and then come back and repair the floor.

A good plan show us progress. A plan with some milestones in it allows us to track our progress. That progress status is used to do three things that tend to increase motivation, resources, and speed. 

  1. Communicate project status. Sharing with the organization, “We are 30% done on this and we estimate being complete in October” builds clarity and reminds others you are still working and progressing.
  2. Celebrate your progress. Some steps are more difficult than others, and when you celebrate completing a difficult challenge, it builds morale within our team. “Yahoo — we reached the end of the design phase!” An encouraged team is more motivated  to focus on the work.
  3. Compete for resources. In this world of limited time and resources, we often have to fight to keep the resources we secured at the beginning of the project. Sometimes this can be true in the capital campaign as well. “We still need Bob on our team. Look at all he has done and what other tasks are assigned to him.” Plus this is not only true for human resources but financial commitments as well. At the launch of the project, people committed to give to support it, but if you don’t keep them in the loop on the progress you are making, you run the risk of their getting distracted and putting their money elsewhere. 

Be willing to focus on the outcome you want before starting. Think of that project you are hesitating to start. Make a quick plan … just enough to get started. If this is a big project, find yourself some project management software and someone to drive it.

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Dave Bair

Dave brings a unique talent for system and process implementation to the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder and also leads our team of coaches. His history of consulting with major corporations to implement change has enabled him to build an impressive coaching framework to guide church leaders towards operational effectiveness. Dave and his wife of many years have a daughter, studying chemistry in college, and a son in high school who's passions include saxophone and drums. In addition for finding Dave at you may occasionally spot him piloting his hot air ballon in the western sky.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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