Monday, November 22, 2010

Ready? Set? Plan!

When I am asked a planning question, I do my best to offer a prompt, helpful answer. When several questions of a similar nature come along, I start tracking down related resources. If I don’t find anything in file drawers, on my bookshelves, by Googling, or checking with colleagues, I figure there’s likely a need for a new or updated planning resource.

Recently, the following questions, clustered around major planning processes, have captured my attention:
  • Is there a specific order in which to create a set of plans?
  • How do you prepare for a major planning effort?
  • What are the steps in a strategic–exhibit, or master–planning process?
The same questions came from a museum gearing up for strategic planning and from a colleague who is also a co-chair of a rowing club and leading a long-range planning process. A start-up museum asked for all the steps in an exhibit master planning process. When I asked an exhibit planner what she used, she said she’d been stymied when a Korean colleague had asked her the same question.

There are no simple or easy answers to these or other planning questions. Every museum is different and each museum is at a different stage from one round of planning to the next. No predetermined order covers all - or even most - plans and museums. Opportunities spring up; external timelines impose a sense of urgency; staff and board with different skills influence the process; and previous planning experiences shape expectations.

Planning resources do exist but are scattered on websites, in blogs, books, journals and deep in the hard-earned experience of museum professionals. Recognizing this as well as the need for easily available planning resources appropriate for a range of planning projects, I  decided to develop the attached Ready? Set? Plan! It summarizes what experience and best practices recommend for fielding a major planning process: planning to plan helps build ownership, determine the scope, and get a project on the right track from the very beginning.

I hope you find this helpful for your next planning project whether it is a  strategic plan, a community engagement plan, or an exhibit master plan. You can also find Ready? Set? Plan! on the Tools and Connections page of my website ( along with other planning tips on the Planning Principles and FAQ’s pages.

If you find this helpful, please pass it on, perhaps to your board strategic planning committee, to a team planning a major initiative, to a colleague at another museum, or to  partner organization embarking on a long-range planning process. I’d love to know if you find this helpful. Please get in touch if you have additional planning questions we can work together to answer. Chances are your questions will echo those that others in the field have.