PLANNING EXERCISES

This group of techniques is used after some learning or insights about a particular topic, or issue, have been acquired. Once the participants understand the issues involved, they are in a better position to consider how they should go forward, either individually or as part of a team. A planning, or action-planning, exercise towards the end of a course or workshop forms an important part of the process of transferring the work of the individuals within the group to the external world where this work will become a reality. It also provides time for reflection both about the course itself and its relevance to the participants’ own working situations.

Method

There are many different ways of developing planning exercises. The facilitator can design a short pro-forma (to suit the training situation) that individual participants then fill in. Participants can work together to develop their own ideas for an action plan, guided by a series of headings suggested either by themselves or the facilitator.

Plans can be very simple: the facilitator might ask participants to think of an action point to address each of the following headings. STOP (one thing that you plan to stop doing); CONTINUE (one thing to continue doing); and START (one thing to start doing) as a result of this workshop. Or they can be very complex: using elaborate frameworks where participants are encouraged to answer the what, who, why, when and how questions for each of the actions that they plan to carry out.

A widely used management tool is the critical path analysis, or network analysis.

This is a method of planning and controlling complex projects, with the objective of getting the right things done in the right order at the right time. The project is broken down into a number of separate activities, with a critical path diagram then showing the order in which each activity must be undertaken. The diagram will reflect the duration of each activity and specify the earliest date at which later activities can begin. Various activities may advance in parallel.

Each diagram is composed of activities and nodes. An activity is that part of the project that requires time and resources – it is represented by an arrow, running from left to right. A node is the start or finish of an activity, and it is represented by a circle. Each diagram must start and end on a single node, and no activity lines must cross each other.

The diagram will thus show which of the activities are critical to achieving the objective – this means that if these activities are delayed, then the project will not be completed on time. Resources can then be concentrated on ensuring that these critical activities are completed on schedule. Other activities that are not critical have a degree of flexibility in the amount of time taken to complete them.

Examples of where planning might be used effectively

• Towards the end of a workshop.

• At the end of an important discussion where it has been clear that a change of policy or practice will be needed.

FIVE TIPS FOR SELECTING TRAINING METHODS

1. Look at the training objectives and consider what methods will best achieve these.

2. Consider the participants’ experience and expectations – is this method the best way of getting participants to learn this topic?

3. Consider your skills, experience, and confidence as a trainer/facilitator.

4. Consider any special facilities, equipment, time, or other requirements needed to use the method.

5. Use a variety of methods to stimulate the senses but do not overload.