The Planning Wheel

How to use the Planning Wheel

The Planning Wheel is divided into four quarters. In each quarter of the wheel, list the projects you will be working on during that quarter. For extra value, color code projects to see the balance of additional factors such as priority, supported initiatives, or most burdened resources and note the budgeted costs and expected payback. This minimal effort quickly yields an intuitive picture of where you may be overloaded, at risk or even have additional capacity.

Move between the Planning Wheel and your projects to prioritize, sequence, balance and budget until you’re satisfied with the balance. Wait to define more detailed project plans until after you’ve completed this exercise so that you can build the best project plan the first time, minimizing the number of iterations you invest in. The planning wheel also helps you respond more quickly to changes in your budget or other resources.

Want to try the Planning Wheel?

We’ve developed an integrated planning tool you can use to check your plans, or if you’re just kicking off the process, to help you align and evaluate your whole plan from vision to Planning Wheel and on through detailed project plans. It’s simple enough for small businesses to use and sophisticated enough to produce a meaningful analysis for corporate groups and divisions. You’ll find your complimentary copy to download and use here.

The Stay-On-Track planning tool walks you through each phase of planning. You can complete any piece independently, or link them all together to help everyone see the direct contribution and alignment of all your initiatives and projects.

Vision, Strategy and Initiatives. On the first sheet you’ll show the linkage between your Vision, the Strategies you’re using to achieve it, and the Initiatives you’re creating to execute the strategies. For example, one of your initiatives may be to provide innovative, superior service targeted to customers that have a potential lifetime revenue value to your organization of $1,000,000 or more. This may be part of a larger strategy to differentiate yourself through providing innovative forms of service your competitors can’t duplicate. Projects within the initiative might include figuring out how you’ll calculate a customer’s potential lifetime value, determining how you’ll understand the job your customer is trying to do so that you can create or spot the innovation you want, or creating a system and process that allows you to effectively identify your targeted customers and provide benefits that are valuable to them.

Projects List. On the second sheet you’ll list the names of the projects you’re planning. You’ll have an opportunity to link each project to the initiative it supports and provide a budget and estimated impact. If you include these estimates, the tool will calculate the implied payback ratio to help you more readily identify your high-payback projects.

Planning Wheel. Next you’ll list your projects on the Planning Wheel. If you want, you can choose to show the estimated budget, impact and payback ratio for the year’s and each quarter’s projects. Work with the Planning Wheel and Projects List until you’re satisfied. Later you can print the results or copy them into a PowerPoint slide to share with your team.

Project Plans. The last sheet offers you an opportunity to create more detailed project plans for each of the projects on your list. The summary for each project is pulled forward from what you completed earlier on the projects list. Write in each project step with the budget, people and other resources you’ll need to complete it. If budgeted costs are above or below your estimate for the project, the detail plan will show you the difference so that you can modify the Projects List or Project Plan as needed. When your plans are complete, you can print and distribute them to each manager and place milestones dates on your review agendas.

Planning Your Projects

Project Name
Project Planning Sample
Due Date
$ 3,000
For Strategy Initiative
Service Differentiation Strategy
Project Step Due Date Step Owner Budget
1. Step 1 description 02/15/08 Wendy $        0
2. Step 2 description 04/24/08 Jerry $        0
3. Step 3 description 04/30/08 Wendy $ 2,500
4. Step 4 description 05/31/08 Jerry $    500
Project completion 05/31/08 Wendy $ 3,000