How to Plan: The Six-T Method

Got a good idea you want to make a reality?  Have a team you want to organize to get something done?  Great!  Sometimes coming up with a good idea is the hardest part.  But now it’s time to turn that concept into a reality, and the bridge between the two is a plan.

Every year I coach several Eagle Scout candidates on how to plan, and turn their project ideas into reality using a simple six-step method.  Read on to learn how you can use this same approach to make your ideas real, too.

How to Plan

How To Plan:  The 6-Ts

Starting your project with a good plan in place will make it infinitely more likely that you will actually get the job done.  How do you make a plan?  You need to have a plan for planning.  You need a way to organize your thoughts and turn them into actions that people can do.

One method I use is the “Six-Ts.”  It seems like any “best practice” has to have a catchy acronym so it’s easy to remember, and most of the planning steps start with the letter T, so that’s where the name came from, although the last one is a bit of a stretch.  You’ll see what I mean…

A common project my guys often propose is renovating a room, so let’s use that as our example.   We’ll work our way through these Six-Ts and come up with a plan to complete this project.  Let’s say your team is you plus eight friends and you want to get this project done in two days.  Ready to get started?

Step 1:  Task

The first thing to do is make sure you have a handle on all the things that have to be done.  Write down all the specific tasks you think will have to be accomplished.  A good method to do this is “mind map” style – as you write them down, cluster similar or related tasks together.  When you are done, draw a circle around each grouping and give it a title.

In our room renovation example, we’ll probably need to do the following:

how to plan 

As we look at the list, the major groups seem to be painting the room, and building the furniture.

Step 2:  Time

Now that you know what needs to be done, you have to figure out when to do it.   One of my favorite techniques is to use “backwards planning.”  Start by thinking about when everything has to be complete.  Working backwards from there, sort out what has to be done just before the end, then the thing that has to come before that, etc.  Estimate how much time each time each task will take, working backwards towards the present.

Also think about what things can be going on simultaneously to save time.  For example, while some people paint the room, others can be building the book case.

With our room renovation, we want to be done by the afternoon of day two, say around four o’clock.  Working backwards from there, the sequence and required time for each task might look like this:


how to plan - Backwards Planning

Step 3:  Talent

With your tasks clustered together and placed in the order you think they need to happen, the next thing to do is make sure you have the talent you need to accomplish each set of tasks.

Look across your team and think about who has the most experience or skill with the tasks, and match them to that job.   You want to have someone who knows what he is doing with each task if possible.

On your room renovation project maybe Jane has experience on painting jobs, and Fred has some background in wood working and using power tools.   Great, match them to the tasks.

Step 4:  Team

People work best in teams, and many tasks will require the efforts of several people.  As you look at your co-workers, try to pick people whose talents will complement those of the person already on the project.  As a final part to this, name someone specifically to be in charge of each team.  Use their actual name.

Avoid putting yourself directly onto one of the teams, even if you happen to be the most skilled or experienced.  You can help at critical moments, but you need to stay free to supervise the whole project.

With teams and team leaders in place, now you only have to deal directly with a few leaders instead of trying to lead everybody.  That will help you focus on doing your job of leading the overall project.

For the room renovation, the painting job is big, so let’s put five of our eight people on that job.  Jane is a skilled painter and can teach the newer guys how to do the job.  For the furniture, give Fred the other two people so there will be three on his team.  See if at least one of them also has wood working experience.

How to Plan - Teams

Step 5:  Tools

Tools are the things your team will need to get their tasks done.  It could be things like funding, access to transportation, technology, meeting space,  hand tools, cleaning equipment; anything along those lines.

Think through what it is that each team will be doing and what they will need to do it.  If at all possible, involve the team leaders in this process so they have a say in what they will have to work with; two (or more) brains are better than one.

For our renovation project, you might develop a list like this with your two team leaders:

How to Plan - Tools

You get the idea.  Be as specific as you can about what you will need.  Visualize the working environment and what you will be doing every step of the way.

Step 6:  Tiller

Just as the boat’s Captain has his hand on the Tiller to steer, it’s important to think about how you are going to direct your project.  This includes deciding where you need to be at certain times, and how you will communicate with your team.

As the overall leader, you need to be sure your project is on track.  You don’t want to wait until the end to find out something is wrong, so stay in touch with your teams, and be ready to adjust your timing, people, and resources to keep everything on track.

For our project, you might want to be there at the very beginning to make sure people can get into the room, and explain what is going to happen.

Also check that each team leader was able to get the resources they needed 

You can help with prepping the room, but be sure to check in on the Furniture team to see how things are going.

As the project develops, if the furniture team finishes early, you could have them pitch in to help the painters, so the whole project goes faster.

Remember, as you go around checking on things, if you see something that needs to be changed, talk to the team leader about it, and let him give direction to the team.  If you start making changes on your own, you are undercutting your leader, which weakens his authority and you’ll end up leading the team yourself.

The Takeaway

So those are the Six Ts of planning:  Task, Time, Talent, Team, Tools, and Tiller.  Develop your plan by looking at each of these steps.  Get your team leaders identified and involved early in the planning.  Then when it comes time to execute they will know what to do, when to do it, who will help them, and what assets they have to get the job done.

To help you organize, here is a Leader Planning Worksheet you can use.  As you go through the Six Ts, list the relevant information on the sheet.  Use one sheet for each team and what you want them to do.  When you are done, you can give the sheet to the team leader, and he will know who’s on his team, what he has to do, when and where to do it.

If you can start a project with a solid plan and team leaders who know what needs to happen, your chances of success will be much higher.  You can check out my video on planning, which is also step 4 of the problem-solving process for another example involving fire building.  And for a recent case study, you can see what I did right and not-so-right in the effort to get our group to Summer Camp.

Since you will be able to lead the project through your teams, your brain will be free to do other leader things like thinking ahead, and motivating.

Do you think everyone might be a little more excited to get the job done if they knew that there was hot pizza for them if they finished on time?

Lead On!


Paint Rollers photo By karpacious ( ) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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