“A goal without a timeline is just a dream.” – Robert Herjavec, Croatian-Canadian businessman and Shark Tank host.

However, a goal with a timeline is known as a plan. The goals define what needs to be done, in terms of the steps, timeframes, people, and resources needed to achieve the objective. You should develop a plan with a timeline for all the objectives you defined.

Let’s continue to draw from the example in the previous articles. So far, we have established a SMART goal, selected a strategy, and identified the objective.

Business: Widget Company

Mission: Be a market leader in widget production while providing excellent customer service.

Vision: Best sales in the region.

SMART Goal: Sign 200 new contracts for widget production and delivery in 2017.
(10% higher than the number of contracts signed in 2016 by any of the companies in the Midwest region of the National Association for Widget Production and Delivery)

Strategy: Improve marketing

Objective: Gather market research, conduct focus groups, complete analysis, develop/execute marketing plan

In the interest of time, let’s choose one objective from above to build a plan. Let’s conduct some focus groups!

First, an initial plan development meeting needs to take place. Our fearless project manager (by duty, if not title) prepares for this initial meeting with the basic understanding of how to conduct a focus group. Also included in this meeting is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) from your marketing team (who ideally has conducted focus groups before) and your Marketing and Sales Directors for executive support and staff and resource planning.

During the meeting, the team discusses the objective and how they should accomplish it. The Marketing SME, the Sales Director, and the Marketing Director discuss what they are looking to achieve and in what timeframe. The marketing SME has only worked on large focus group projects before and advises the group that they have never seen one take less than 6 months. The Sales Director pushes back, noting that they need to meet their goal in a year and if this part of the strategy takes that long, the company won’t have time to accomplish the other objectives. The Marketing director intervenes and recommends a small number of focus groups to shorten the timeline. After working through these issues, the team agrees to conduct three focus groups within the next three months.

After the initial plan development meeting, additional discussion and research occurs to plan the details of the three focus groups within the next three months. For each focus group, you will need to address the following details: reasonable timelines for focus groups to occur, resources needed to conduct them, and skill sets required from staff. Below is a sample of what the Plan may look like for this example:

  • Choose topic
    • Timeline – one week
    • Resources – market research
    • Staff assigned – Marketing director
  • Develop questions
    • Timeline – one week
    • Resources – market research, company feedback surveys from previous year
    • Staff assigned – 2 Marketing team members, 1 sales team member, approved by Marketing director
  • Schedule focus groups
    • Timeline – one week
    • Resources – book location, staff, refreshments
    • Staff assigned – 1 intern or administrative assistant
  • Find and invite participants
    • Timeline – four weeks
    • Resources – contact management database
    • Staff assigned – 1 marketing team member and 1 intern
  • Conduct focus group, document responses, thank participants, etc
    • Timeline – one week
    • Resources – audio and video recording equipment, location, response forms
    • Staff assigned – 3 marketing team members and 2 interns
  • Review and analyze results
    • Timeline – four weeks
    • Resources – marketing catalog
    • Staff assigned – 1 marketing team member and 1 intern

At the final plan development meeting, the team reviews the plan and assigns dates and staff to the tasks. Now, that everyone knows what they are expected to do when and why we can make progress towards our SMART Goal (outlined above).

Naviant’s extensive project management experience in different industries will provide support in setting your plans. We can help your organization and provide strategies and metrics that other organizations are using to grow. We see ourselves as a partner to our customers, and our partnership is most effective when we can help your organization define and review project plans so you can begin and finish projects more quickly.

As Mary Stewart wrote in her novel The Crystal Cave, “Thinking and planning is one side of life; doing is another. A man cannot be doing all the time.” If it worked for Merlin, it’s probably a good idea.

Join us next week for the final article in this series.


About Ann-Marie

Ann-Marie is a Project Management Institute, Professional Project Manager and 10+ year veteran of the Project Management discipline, focusing primarily on health care and information technology projects. She also holds multiple Epic Clinical application certifications and managed some Epic implementations in roles representing (at different times) the vendor, health system, and consulting firm. Ann-Marie has also worked on OnBase implementation large and small over the last few years. Currently, she is an Account Executive at Naviant in Verona, WI. Outside of work, Ann-Marie is a life-long nerd who enjoys books, video games, and cross-stitch embroidery.