Central Functions On this page:

What  makes up planning

Planning involves setting a course of action.  The activities in it are

To the above, I'd add "vision" -- an overall, big-picture view of the enterprise's (project's) essential character and culture and how it fits within the world. The vision may be reflected in a mission statement or in a motto, such as Google's "Do no evil." Vision may fit within "objectives", but it takes on added significance in today's world.


Forecasting

"The best laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!!"

-- Robert Burns, 1785

Burns' little mouse (his burrow destroyed by spring plowing) suffered by not forecasting. No plan is complete without a prediction of the environment during which it will be implemented. Will conditions and events be favorable to our plans or not?

Forecasting is about the future but we may learn from the past. The fate of buggy-whip manufacturers can teach us to think about whether our product or service will meet a future need.

Nor is the future completely unknowable. Some present trends will continue. Computing devices will get smaller and more connected. The US population will get older. Farmers will continue to plow in the spring. Other trends (zombie movies?) may fade out.

Forecasts are projections, they may be derived in either of two ways:

No matter the technique, a forecast should (1) learn from the past, (2) keep the big picture in view, (3) determine the reasonable limits of its accuracy, and (4) obtain multiple inputs. Forecasts should be periodically reviewed for continued applicability and

Forecasting is not a science; it is not precise and it is fallible.

forecasting model

Most important: Forecasts, must be communicated to have value.

Failing to forecast: A case study in collapse

For the younger among you, we may need to explain that Eastman Kodak was once as great a company as Apple, Google or Facebook. Scrapbooks across the world are filled with pictures on Kodak's film.

Kodak went into bankruptcy in January 2012, undone by the change from chemical film to digital imaging. Creditors wrangled over Kodak's bones -- which assets, ironically, consist largely of digital-imaging patents. This excellent article by John Kotter discusses how & why Kodak failed to adapt.

The failure lay not in the ability of knowledgeable Kodak people to foresee the changes on the horizon, the impact and actions needed to deal with them. Rather, it was in the failure of peers and senior leaders to listen. 

TFG Forecasting

To a great extent, this involves technical issues, e.g., will SNPs replace STRs? How soon? It also involves public attitudes and opinions, e.g., will DNA genealogy become more or less accepted and popular? Our current forecast:

Objectives

"There is no problem, however simple,
that can not be complicated beyond all hope of solution."

-- Anonymous

Objectives simplify problems to permit solutions; they focus effort. Objectives are goals made concrete and tangible. Another way of defining them is that they break down an overall goal into smaller parts -- if each part is achieved, so is the goal.

Important aspects of objectives are  that they lead to accomplishing the overall goal and that they be measurable (subject to determining whether or not they are achieved). To know whether an objective is achieved, it's essential to have a standard for it; the standard may be either quantitative or qualitative.

Objectives must also be realistic. An impossible, incredible objective (e.g., "world peace") contributes nothing to success and may actually hinder it. On the other hand, an objective may require "stretching" beyond a comfort level in order to achieve it.

We can differentiate levels of objectives, some are more central than others.

Objectives are important problem-solving tools. A good objective, when attained, will solve the problem. This will be covered in more detail in decision making.

Sample Objectives

  1. Increase Y-DNA penetration to 100 project members per 100,000 male Taylors in US by 2016.
  2. Achieve Y-DNA resolution of at least 80% of tests  being 37 or more markers by 2015.
  3. Increase Y-DNA penetration in the United Kingdom & Ireland by 25% by 2017.

Note that the examples are measurable and contain "deadlines" or attainment dates.

Programming

I would say that what we've gotten for a half billion dollars
is an unpronounceable acronym [DIMHRS].

-- Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense

Programming sets the sequence of actions needed to achieve an objective. Within that sequence of actions may be a "critical path" -- a series of steps determining the earliest overall completion.

While the term "programming"  is often used in relation to writing instructions for computer applications, here we mean it in a broader sense.

Programming is a matter of analysis. Certain things may need to be finished before others can start. Some actions can proceed in parallel. Some steps may be interdependent; each feeding off the other.

For example "take shower" is usually preceded by "remove clothing" and followed by "dry off", but may be in parallel with "shave".

In a complex information technology project, some routines of the application may be interdependent. Routine "A" may partly depend on aspects of routine "B" and vice-versa.

Example

We found in Taylor Family Genes that a "critical mass" of about 500 Y-DNA results for 37 or more markers was necessary to attain a match rate of 50%. Matching depended on both resolution and penetration.

Scheduling

"Beware the time-driven project with an artificial deadline."
-- M. Dobson
"There's seldom enough time to do it right at first;
there always seems to be enough time to do it over."

Charles A Norris

Scheduling is related to programming; it sets the time sequence of actions. It consists of analyzing the steps and setting target dates for the beginning and completion of each step.

In scheduling, a "critical path" of steps may reveal the shortest time in which the objective can be attained. If this exceeds the allotted time, Dobson's advice takes on special relevance.

Scheduling in TFG

A sad fact is that the TFG project admin will often be at the mercy of bad scheduling by others.

Budgeting

Budgeting allocates resources to the action steps so that they may be accomplished within the schedule.

Budgeting is not restricted to money alone; it may include people, hours, equipment and/or other resources.

Policies

"There's no reason for it. It's just policy.
-- Anonymous

Policies are -- or should be -- standing decisions to recurring questions and concerns. They improve decision-making, eliminate some crisis decisions, make delegation easier, insure consistency of decisions and encourage teamwork.

To be effective, policies need to be communicated. They should be kept to the minimum necessary. (Having too many policies inhibits flexibility.) They should define the best answers to problems. And, they should be reviewed periodically.

A policy and a procedure are different beasts. The former says what to do; the latter how to do it.

Aside: In my early career, going from one organization to another, I was often assigned to review the "Policy Manual", usually contained in a loose-leaf binder several inches thick. The assignment would prove a good orientation to the organization; it told me about past problems and introduced me to the people I'd be working with.  Typically, I found many of the policies related to something that had happened once and never would again. (Though the happening had caused high-level embarrassment.)  I found that other policies were not considered (by consensus) the "best answer" and were frequently ignored. I learned, too, that policies are political.

TFG Policies

Who is allowed to be a member? What constitutes a "match"? Who is responsible for genealogical research?

Procedures

“I want a pit crew...
I hate the procedure I currently have to go through when I have car problems.”

-- Dave Barry
“I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult.
It's not. Mine had me trained in two days.”

-- Bill Dana

Procedures are a means of standardizing work to be done uniformly. They set out a step-by-step way of doing the work.

Procedures and policies are not the same thing, though sometimes used interchangeably. A policy states what is to be done; a procedure states how to do it. A policy might say "Nuts will be securely fastened to bolts." A procedure might say:

  1. Place nut on bolt and align threads
  2. Spin nut down to finger tight
  3. Use torque wrench to tighten to 150 foot-pounds.

Procedures may need to be revised frequently. Policies should remain relatively stable.

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