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Project Planning – Start at the End

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Some of the best advice I can give people who want to start a project is to start at the end. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works. In our project documents we ask people first to write down their vision or their goals, because these express where they are planning to go, or “end” up.

A vision statement usually should be broad enough to make it seem unachievable. That pushes us to think about what it would look like in an ideal world with an ideal outcome. Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All is a Christmas vision, but it will not be achieved until the old things have passed away. However, God had goals along the way that would be the steps toward fulfilling this vision. It included the hard work that only God could do, but it also included an “exit” strategy for God. This was the transition or handover to us. Right from the beginning we heard words like “Follow me!” and “When I leave, you will be expected to do this” and “Go out and do what I am doing and come back and tell me how it went.” God, who could have been with us forever, had an exit-and-hand-over strategy. But we mortals will have to leave at some time, so we need to plan our own exit-and-hand-over strategies.

Mark Cuban has been quoted as saying, ”Do not start a company unless it is an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it is not an obsession.” I would agree with this statement, because an obsession is about me and me doing what I love. I would suggest that as the Body we are called not be obsessed, but to be passionate, or to suffer for a purpose. A wholistic vision of life and what I should be doing is necessary to make the world a better place for others. I am successful when this effort is multiplied and others join me in this task. Therefore, my exit will be just a small blip on the screen of eternity if others have also picked up this vision.

Even creation was planned right from the beginning with its goal results and exit strategies. These are the prophetic words we read. In creation, what were the results needed to make a plan and a future that would give us hope? Do our projects do the same? Are there those who will carry this on? Do others believe the vision of the changes we want to see happening, or is it only our vision? To what extent does the vision of our project/work serve the greater good of the community? Are there tools in place for those who come after me to continue the vision? Are the people who want to carry on this vision trained to use the tools they have? What will be the ongoing follow-up to ensure long-term success? When will we give others the joy and the burden of full responsibility for our project?

The most important thought about our vision and transition strategy is, “Have we communicated this to our partners and beneficiaries?” It is “my vision” when I am doing it and they do not know what I am doing. It is “our vision” when we plan together and know where we are going. It is God’s vision when we know that what we are doing has eternal impact.

Making a project plan by starting at the end is like a good thesis statement in a book; it ensures that all the work we do is focused on the results we want and expect. It cuts away the activities and expenses that are not going to get us where we need to go. Looking at the end is not only a good idea for our projects, it is actually a great way of planning our daily lives.

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