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Thirteen Elements of Effective Planning

All plans are not good plans. In fact, even good plans can fail. We cannot predict the future – we can only imagine it imperfectly. In our companies and organizations, effective planning is a social activity. Deciding on a strategic planning process as a group, rather than as an individual, adds even greater complexity to an already complex task. Collaborative and effective planning techniques, then, require 13 essential elements.

1. Effective and Strategic Planning Process

First, effective planning requires a process, and that strategic planning process should include the remaining 12 elements of good planning. In collaborative team planning, that process must be structured and disciplined in order to be efficient and thorough. Without a process, your planning techniques will be awkward, inefficient and often insufficient.

2. Effective Planning Techniques: An Envisioned Future / Objective

When we envision the future, we must describe it clearly and provide specific measurements in order to judge our success. To this end, the objective of our effective planning techniques is goal we envision attaining in the future. Objectives must be clear to all involved. They must also have a scope that is commensurate with the span of control of those involved with the effective planning process. An objective that is not achievable by those tasked with developing a plan is, obviously, doomed to failure. Objectives must also be measurable. Without measurements of success, there is no means of establishing whether or not the objective was achieved, and your strategic planning process will be flawed.

3. Dynamic, Adaptable Planning

In terms of effective planning, “dynamic” means that plans are adaptable, in two ways. First, the act of effective planning considers the current and predicted environment and adapts the plan accordingly. Second, in the strategic planning process, plans must be devised in such a way so that they are not overly detailed. Effective planning ensures that your plans can adapt to changes that occur while the plan is being executed.

4. Iterative Improvements

Effective planning at your organization will also be iterative. By “iterative,” we mean that a plan will improve continuously from one iteration, or version, to another before it is executed in the strategic planning process. The iterative nature of planning supports its adaptive or dynamic nature. Iteration can be sped up by an effective planning technique known as “Red Teaming.” In Red Teaming, a group of individuals outside the planning effort are invited to criticize the plan or expose its weaknesses, acting as a form of rapid iteration and improvement.

5. Effective Planning Requires that You Learn from Experience

A complex and rapidly changing environment demands the ability to rapidly learn from the changes in that environment. Even the most well-educated and trained organization will soon become obsolescent as changes in the environment eventually overwhelm it. Good organizational planning requires sophisticated and effective planning techniques that the organization learns continually, through interaction with its environment and the execution of its plans.

6. Means to Achieve / Course of Action

The central element of all effective planning techniques is the Course of Action (COA). These are the actual tasks that must be completed, whether in parallel, in series, or a combination of both, to achieve the goal. For the most part, in a strategic planning process, the Course of Action, for simple plans, is intuitive or even obvious. However, for most organizations, plans may require great detail. Therefore, an effective planning process must be flexible enough to handle both simple and detailed plans. Effective planning processes should have the ability to repeat the planning process at successively lower levels in the organization, while supporting the objectives of the overall plan.

7. Decentralized Effective Planning

Another effective planning technique is the decentralization of plans, closely related to the flexible and successively repeatable nature of the Course of Action. Effective planning teams should not plan beyond their scope or expertise. In other words, the executive team of a large corporation should not develop the details of a strategic planning process to replace a main server in their IT infrastructure. Such a task is both out of their scope and, most likely, their expertise.

8. Individual Accountability

The scope and detail of effective planning is concluded when each task within a Course of Action is assigned to a single individual, not a team, to complete. Without individual accountability to each task and each plan, there is a significant risk of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and ultimately, failure.

9. Effective Planning Techniques Support Initiative and Good Judgment

General George S. Patton said that plans “[...] should be made by those who are going to execute them.” Decentralization and accountability go far in supporting the success of effective planning techniques. However, when a strategic planning process is developed by the team responsible for accomplishing the plan’s objective, the overall quality and likelihood of creating a successful plan improves exponentially.

10. Consider Resources

Effective planning means not committing to or wasting resources unnecessarily. In a strategic planning process, planners must determine the appropriate targets or objectives and focus resources upon those objectives. Because resources are often limited, prioritizing and planning successive phases of implementation may be necessary.

11. Assess Risk: Leadership Responsibility

Resources are considered carefully at every level of effective planning. Furthermore, the assessment of objectives, threats and resources are critical steps in every strategic planning process that, when taken together, form the basic risk assessment for any plan. Without the necessary resources to either avoid or mitigate the threats to accomplishing an objective, the risks in undertaking that plan should be given due consideration by the leadership within the organization. Because risk is often necessary, the final decision to execute the plan is left to its leaders, not the planning team.

12. Participatory and Cognitively Diverse

Isolating planning in a single individual or a group of individuals without the benefit of field experience and a diversity of knowledge, skills, and abilities is a recipe for failure. The world we live in is increasingly complex. Problem-solving in our complex world requires teams of cognitively diverse individuals contributing their unique knowledge to form a combination of effective planning techniques. If planning is conducted by a single individual or by groups of people with similar knowledge, skills and abilities, the qualities necessary to solve complex problems and to create an innovative strategic planning process will be absent.

13. The Most Effective Plans are Simple

The more complex a design, the more likely it will fail. As Statistical Process Control and Six Sigma methodologies instruct, the greater the number of steps in a process, the greater the potential for a defect. That is why it is critical that the planning process remains simple. Simplicity is not just about minimizing the number of tasks, it’s about making sure that each task is clearly defined through answering some simple questions: “who will do what and when.”

There is a paradox at work in effective preparation. It is simply this: that our human tendency is to implement plans rigidly while the purpose of a plan, in light of the complexity and constant change in the world, is to define objectives and establish a point of departure to react to change. The paradox of the strategic planning process is that effective planning does not involve merely creating a list of sequenced tasks, but establishing a constantly evolving problem-solving process that adapts and thrives in the environment.

Life Improvement: When Is It Time Not To Plan?

Many of us have all heard the age-old saying that failing to plan is planning to fail. And many of us know the value and power that is found in setting goals, especially written ones. Every business guru, diet guru, sports guru… any guru… take your pick from the plenty there are… all of them stress one thing: have goals, will succeed. So we know this works. At the same time, we all hear of the importance and immense power of letting go, detachment. So we also know that this works. But it all sounds contradictory at first, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. The question then is, when is it time to plan, and when is it time to let go (not plan)? Put in another way, when does planning help you, and when does it harm you? When do things “go bad” not in spite of your plans, but because of them? That is the question, the answer to which will allow you to drop off the stress and worry baggage, stop unwittingly messing yourself up with plans made at the wrong place and time, and generally empower and free you a great deal.

Well, to begin with, it is a good time to define a plan so that we know what we are talking about. A plan is a vision; a template which when followed guarantees a certain outcome. It is a collection of cause-and-effect clusters that all work together to produce one final desired outcome. The essence inspires a vision that defines the becoming of a form, through process, that will hold the expression and experience of the essence that inspired it. That is a plan. Obviously, a plan with missing or incorrect inputs will not lead to the correct outcome,because it is not based on truth, on the Universe as it were, on the Laws It Works By. So you can imagine that an incomplete plan will work, but it won’t – it can only hope to approximate. Incomplete plans don’t work fully, no matter how one deludes themselves prior to the frustration of seeing the plan dashed against the rocks. Moving on, a plan made at the level of your ego is a personal plan. You make it because you have certain hopes and fears and you wish to avoid what you fear and make what you hope for happen. Without fear, you would rarely plan personally. Most plans are defensive; defensive against some imagined attack. A feature of a personal plan is that they have a future imagined “good end” to aim for and a “bad end” to avoid. Therefore, a personal plan is based on judgment (against yourself and others) and abstract assumed scenarios as part of its inputs. Its driving force is partially based on fear, as all things from the ego level are.

Here is a key point: personal plans are made from a vantage point that has no vision of all factors involved in all dimensions of space and time, and that is why the ego assumes things in an attempt to fill in the places it has no idea about. At this level of consciousness, you can only see what is right Here Now, and for most humans that is a tiny slice of eternity. Of all the millions of cause-and-effect components required to cooperate all across the universe for your desire to be fulfilled, your egoic self is only aware of a tiny percentage of them. That is why its plans are never complete. But then there is a part of You that is nonphysical and aware of all, all, the components and how they would exactly fit into the space-time continuum to guarantee that your desire is fulfilled. That part of You is Everywhere, that is why It Knows.

Now, I would like you to stop for a moment and remember the last time you had a flash of insight, an ah-ha that made you smile with delight at how smart you are. We have all had those moments where, literally out of the blue, we get it! You could be taking a piss while daydreaming about the ocean, when this brilliant solution for your business appears in a flash in your mind, and you get so excited! It’s a funny thing how they happen. Have you ever wondered why they come to you as finished plans? Seriously, remember the last time you had one. You did not construct it, put it together, or formulate it. You know, you did not put it together, block by block, until it became the genius idea that it was. You just found it all done for you, there, flashing in your mind. And you ran out and told your friends what you just thought of, never once stopping to consider just how you thought of it. Really, who put it together? Think about that. You found it complete, perfect for your needs. Who put it together with such wakeful intelligence that is aware of all that is involved so much so as to produce such a suitable idea? What about musicians? Many chart-topping artists report that they simply find the music in them; they hear it then write it. They don’t put it together; they more like report it. The same goes for many inventors, many artists, and so on.

By the time you get one of those flashes of insights, by the time it enters your mind, it is already a copy. The original is out there somewhere, where it was put together by One who has full vision and was capable of bringing to you what you had not managed to package together yourself. But remember, there is only One Mind, separation is a mental illusion, just like time is a mental illusion (time is thought “stretched” out into “space” to demonstrate and experience it; you recognize sections of eternity “at a time” to experience process, space demonstrated). You “heard” the thought, the inspiration, because you were listening, at that point empty in relation to the matter. If you remain empty, you could continue, day by day, to listen to the rest of the plan, which includes how to execute the vision, what inputs to use, when to make what move, and so on. The place where the original plan came from is your own Higher Mind, that part of your individuation that is still in perfect recognition of its unity with All That Is, the part of you that sees all and knows all, the part of you that is not in the experience called human, the divine essence. Now here is the greatest news: no divine plans are incomplete. None! So none can possibly fail when executed as planned. The Planner Sees All, Directs All. The only thing that can interfere (which means it introduces inefficiency to your personal experience) with a divine plan is a personal plan. This is not because a personal plan is more powerful; it is because the right to free will is upheld with the highest respect. You have heard many times that you have many aspects of you, some of which you are conscious of and others of which you are not. When they are not aligned, you experience conflict and confusion. So now we know the difference between a personal and a divine plan. A divine plan is not some plan made by some foreign god to impose on you; it is Your Own answer to your questions, from a level that sees all (Spirit) to one whose experience is one slice of the whole at a time (human). But it is all you. That is why those flashes of genius that you get are so complete, yet they are specific to the very problem or desire you had.

Now let us go back to this goal-making business. Personal plans have a function, but only when used to free the individual. It is the only time they can help you. And this is why. Imagine a person who feels like a victim (in anything, any area of life). They have given up hope. They feel powerless, incapable of making anything happen. Now, if something happens that triggers their courage or anger enough to make them decide to do what it takes to make things work for them, they begin to become self-reliant. They drop the victim mentality. They make a plan; a way in which they feel will get them out of their desperation. Now, every time a human has a desire, the non-physical part of that human starts inspiring this human with ideas from a divine plan, ideas which are guaranteed to work. However, if you have so much personal thoughts and emotions distracting you, you cannot hear these inspirations. You must still yourself. Like a calm pond, one which will instantly be aware of any rock thrown in. If you are like the Niagara Falls inside, you will not notice the rocks being thrown in.

Anyway, back to our example. This person, far from calm, will only hear parts of the plan being given them. They will, out of fear and a belief that they can fail, that there is some danger somewhere, they make a personal plan. They use inputs from inspiration, whatever they can hear and are not afraid to follow, and they also make up scenarios, imaginings based on their fears, and use these in the planning process. At the end of it all, what they invariably find is that the plan works in certain portions. They are elated! Even if not everything worked as planned, at least something worked! And this way, they rise out of desperation and can now start to direct their life. The point here is that from the place they were, the helplessness they believed to be in, any plan was a good thing. Any plan! And goals are great, because they give a point of reference, something to aim for. As you can see, even the worst personal plan, one with 10% success, is still a great thing for one who though they had zero power. It is something to celebrate and honor.

But then there comes a point where self-confidence and self- reliance is believed in enough to no longer be doubted. At this point, making personal plans becomes a great hindrance. Once you have proof that your life can be deliberately lived instead of under the idea that you are a victim of forces beyond your control, it is time to start using complete plans. That means that the ego’s personal plans are no longer useful. They were a crutch to remind you how to walk, with their goals and all, but now that you can walk on your own, you need a new tool to show you how to run and fly. That is a complete plan, a divine plan made by the higher aspect of Who You Are. You are much larger than you imagine yourself to be. Let us examine how this works.

Under the rule of personal plans, a person would ‘hear’ the insight, the flash of genius, stop everything they are doing, and excitedly run to the office to start planning how to make this plan work! They assume it is ‘my idea’ and ‘I must make it work against threat of failure’. They make plans which rely largely on assumptions (an assumption is anything that is not What Is) because they cannot see the Whole Picture. So by mere fact, their personal plans will have elements in them that interfere with the smooth progress of the original insight, the divine plan. This is where you start to fail because of your plans, not in spite of them. To begin with, you do not know what the vision you saw in your mind is for, its complete use to the entire universe. The universe is not personal; it works as a Whole. But the Original Source of the idea does. You also do not know what the millions of cause-and-event components required are; you can only guess a few of them. And you do not know at what points in the space-time continuum they require to be inserted for everything to work perfectly; but the Maker of the Original Plan does. Now watch how a personal plan messes you up at this stage. Your plan is based on dates and deadlines that you pull out of the blue. It is full of standards that you have determined indicate whether you have succeeded or failed. Let us say you miss a deadline, and something happens that is opposite of what you had hoped and expected. What happens to your ego then? Does it not rush to judgment, calling you a failure, asserting the belief that things can go wrong and that you need even more control, and increasing the level of fear and anxiety? So next time when faced with a similar situation, you put even more focus on what you fear and then it happens again! Simply because you focused on it and thus created it. It becomes a viscous cycle. And you keep reaching for more control. And you experience more stress instead of less. And fear increases. You never once to consider that there is nothing wrong with you or the universe, nothing unsafe. You never stop to consider that it is your personal plan that was grossly mistaken due to relying on a fear-created ego.

Now let us see why the most successful people all preach the power of letting go. Let us look at how one would proceed in the above example, but by listening.

A person would hear the insight, and automatically know or remind himself or herself that all divine plans are complete, all the way to the end. They know that the vision is complete in the Mind of the One, and it cannot ever fail. So it is simple. In the same way, they listened to and heard the great idea that made them all excited, they would remember that their copy is just a copy. The original is still out there, along with everything needed to make it manifest. So they would listen and wait. They would know that at the right time and place, they would receive the next piece of the puzzle. They would rest, not stressing about making plans to ‘make sure’ it happens. And it makes sense. If they did not compose the first idea, why can’t they trust that Whatever composed it will also give forth, at the right time, everything else needed to make it work?

Imagine the universe is a big circle and you are a little circle within that big circle. Now a personal planner assumes that the big circle is at war with him or her, the little circle. In their fear over this imagined state of things, they make up a phantom world in their mind, with assumptions about the future and how the rest of the universe will act and react, and they plan against this. It is so draining. One who does not make personal plans but listens to their higher aspect, on the other hand, sees the big circle as part of them, part of the whole, with only an intention to love them and make sure all is OK, because all is One. They have chosen to believe in peace and love rather than separation and scarcity. This is a choice, and it is the choice that allows them to let go. They realize that they are best served focusing on the little circle, their Here Now, which is what they have full knowing of. And they awaken within that circle that is them, here, now. They chose to put all their attention here, now, and because they do this, they are aware of their emotions and thoughts. Presence gives them the ability to control their here, now. So they choose, here now, always, to make their here now happy and well. Here, Now, they follow whatever cues come up, always deliberately choosing their thoughts and emotions, here now, and not throwing their mind into some imagined past or future. In other words, they make every here now moment golden, and because all life is a successive moments of infinite Here Now, their lives automatically work perfectly! You have seen them or heard of them. That is how they do it. Clarity, simplicity, power, peace, calm… all rewards of being present and following complete plans, letting go of personal plans once you recognize that their use as a crutch is complete. They become purely efficient, effortless.

Such people walk this earth without the baggage of plans and worries, and things work better for them! They recognize that the universe is not personal, yet it is only, only, loving and all else is our self-created illusions. Just because we do not understand something does not make that thing wrong. There are more things relating to your life than you are consciously aware of at this level of your existence. Remember that your life always creates the next moment of your experience out of your intentions. Whatever you give attention to grows. You are therefore held hostage by your own personal plans. So what is the point of your mind at this level, in relation to planning? Well, it is to execute that plans it receives, knowing with certainty that they cannot fail. It is to fashion all of your existence here into an appropriate vessel to execute these plans. The plans are already perfect. All they need is a suitable vessel to manifest through. You have to become a certain person for certain things to flow through you. It is this that you can use your lower mind for, by following cues from the higher mind. The attainment of success is not something that one comes by through chasing after success – it is something one attracts by the person they become. You form a vibration match with what you desire. It is an inner journey of transformation. You can call it education, training, skills, self-help, discipline… it is all an inner transformational journey resulting in a frequency match. It is guaranteed. That is all you have to do. The rest is done for you (admit it; you don’t know how it is done, how all those things are coordinated universally to make this amazing miracle called life work with predictability!)

You now have a progression of the use of various types of plans. In the beginning, personal plans can be used to establish self-reliance in a being that has lost hope. However, there comes a time when that crutch, the personal plan, because the very problem itself, the cause of failure instead of being the cause of success. That’s when its time to let go of the crutch. It is time to dare give trust a chance, to dare believe that the universe is loving (not dangerous, as you have been indoctrinated to assume) and see what happens! Give it a go! Find out for yourself. Let go, truly, a few times and listen to the plans as they come and see what happens! Gather your own evidence instead of holding on to personal plans because you are afraid something could “go wrong”. You don’t have to carry that huge unnecessary load. Drop it. It is very liberating! Try it a few times and see how you like it.

Health Insurance Rate Increases And Grandfathered Health Plans – Should You Go Down With The Ship?

Everybody is getting large health insurance rate increases this year. The size of the increase is making many people look for alternative health insurance plans. One type of plan is being especially hard hit with double digit increases, and those are grandfathered health plans. We’ll cover what’s happening and what you can do to protect yourself from the rate increases that are taking place.

You may be thinking, “What’s a grandfathered health insurance plan?” The answer is, if you have a health insurance plan that was in place on March 23rd of 2010, and you haven’t made any changes to your plan, you’re still in the same plan, then you have a grandfathered health insurance plan. If you’ve been in the same plan for 5, 10, 15 years, then you have a grandfathered health insurance plan.

Grandfathered plans have some special exemptions and characteristics, so we need to go over those in a little bit more detail. The easiest way to do that is to tell you a story about a recent client. That client’s name is Barry.

Barry and his wife are 52, and they have two daughters; one 21, and one that’s 16. Barry shared with me that their letter basically told them their new rate was going up almost 24% and they would be paying $1389 a month. They were in an Anthem PPO Share 5000 plan, and they’d been in that plan so long, he didn’t even remember when they actually started it. The rates had increased progressively from one year to the next.

But this year, the rates were finally high enough that he said he didn’t want to pay that much anymore, he wanted to find an alternative. So he called his agent, and then he called Anthem Blue Cross directly. In both cases, they told him to “just ride it out” and wait to see what happened in 2014, after the Affordable Care Act kicked in. That wasn’t an answer Barry was willing to live with because he wanted a solution today.

So when Barry called he shared the above information and his fear that he would have to pay higher rates. When queried about the health characteristics of his family, he said they were all healthy, and that other than one or two colds, they did preventive care and that was pretty much it. Their current plan was very rich in benefits that they weren’t making use of, based on what he’d described.

After running a set of quotes for the family, and scanning all of the different options, it became clear that one of the best options for them was the Health Net PPO Advantage 3500 plan. The reason is because it gave them two office visits for a simple copayment, and then all of the preventive care was free. That’s not something that they had in their PPO Share plan. They actually have to pay for their preventive care as part of their deductible costs in that plan.

The monthly premium on that Health Net plan was only $480 a month, so they were saving a little over $900 per month, or $10,900 per year. Barry really liked that. But he said, “There’s a big difference in benefits between these two plans. Can you show me a plan that’s a little bit closer to the benefits we have in our grandfathered plan, but at a lower cost?”

So looking through the list again, the closest match was the Cigna Open Access 5000/100% plan. It has a $5000 deductible and has unlimited office visits, which is very similar to the plan they currently have. But the monthly premium is only $928 a month. They could still save almost $500 per month, and $5500 in savings over the course of a year. Now, I don’t know about you, but saving $5500 to $10,900 is a pretty substantial amount of money for any family. Barry loved the heck out of that.

But he was still a little bit concerned. He said, “I like those plans, and I’m glad that there is an option that looks like it could save us a ton of money. But what am I giving up if I leave this grandfathered plan?” He needed to know what the advantages and disadvantage of a grandfathered plan are.

Advantages Of Grandfathered Health Plans

The advantage is that it’s outside of the Affordable Care Act. It’s not regulated, so it doesn’t have to have all the essential health benefits, and it doesn’t have to add all the extra benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. So hopefully, it’s going to have a lower cost. But that’s the only advantage of a grandfathered plan.

Disadvantages Of Grandfathered Health Plans

There are a number of disadvantages to grandfathered plans. First of all, they don’t free preventive care. For a family that has people over 50, that can actually be pretty substantial when you start looking at colonoscopies once every few years or so.

Secondly, in all health insurance plans, when it initially starts and gets to its largest size, there’s a pool of people that are inside of that plan. The premiums that the pool of people pay, covers all of the medical expenses for everyone in the plan. But over the years, as people leave that plan and move to lower cost plans or plans that better fit what they currently need, the number of people in the plan shrinks. This the typical lifecycle of a health insurance plan. At some point, the people that are left in the plan are either people that just never bothered to leave, or people that have health conditions that prevent them from being able to leave the plan. At that point in time, the rates for the plan start to climb much faster than the rates in other plans.

The last nail in the coffin for grandfathered plans is that because it is outside of the Affordable Care Act, come 2014 when the rates go up yet again, people on the grandfathered plans are not going to be able to qualify for subsidies. So they’re going to get no financial assistance at all, they’re going to have to pay for all their preventive care, and the rates on their grandfathered plan will increase again, so it probably isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense to stay in the old plan.

At that point in time, Barry was pretty much ready to change plans. He understood why his plan was going up so much; he liked the fact that there was a solution for him; and he actually started to get kind of frustrated. He said, “My agent and the Anthem Blue Cross representative both told me I should ride this out. Why did they do that? That doesn’t make any sense.” Not wanting to say something bad about somebody else, I told him that if he had asked the same question a year ago, I would’ve said to let it ride. Just stay in there and wait for more information, because nobody knew what the Affordable Care Act plans were going to be, and nobody knew what the rates were going to look like on the new plans.

However, a lot has changed since January of last year. During the summer and fall, the Affordable Care Act “metal” plans were described. Not the specific benefits, but what they’re going to look like in terms of benefit levels. The insurance companies, have given indications about what the pricing is going to look like for these new Affordable Care Act plans. What they’re saying is that the average cost is probably going to be anywhere from $300 to $500 per person each month. So for a family like Barry’s, it’s anywhere from $1200 to $2000 per month. The cost of the Affordable Care Act plans and his current grandfathered plan are pretty much even right now, and his plan is going to go up even more next year.

Barry decided there’s really no benefit to staying in his grandfathered plan, because he’s not going to get any subsidy help, and he’s not going to get free preventive care in the grandfathered plan.

The end of the story is that Barry’s family was accepted, and they were going to take a dream vacation this year, using some of that $11,000 they’re no longer paying to a health insurance company.

As you can see from this case study, it’s really important that you stay on top of what’s happening with the Affordable Care Act, because things are going to start moving very quickly this year. States and the feds are beginning to quickly build the exchanges, and the insurance companies are creating the new metal plans to go inside and outside the exchanges. Knowing what steps you should take to position yourself and your family to be able to make a smooth transition to the new Affordable Care Act plans is important.

If you have a grandfathered health plan there are some exemptions that you have to consider, along with determining where your grandfathered plan is in its lifecycle, to determine if it makes sense to stay with the plan you currently have, or if making a change is a better option. There’s no sense going down with the ship if you don’t have to.