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Agile/Scrum, Creativity & Innovation, Project Management

GIST Planning for Innovation Projects

I’ve been facilitating a group of staff who have been challenged by their senior leadership team to complete some Innovation Projects as part of a current leadership development programme.

The timescales are tight, the projects run over the Summer holiday period and the teams generally have more ideas than they can cope with in the time available.

I introduced them to GIST Planning which helps them set out their:

  • Goals – what they want to achieve or improve
  • Ideas – all the ideas they’d like to try that will contribute to meeting the Goal
  • Steps – the main chunks of work associated with each idea
  • Tasks – the detailed activities within each of the steps

It’s an agile planning tool I came across here and I’ve been suggesting it to clients who only need a light-touch approach to planning. The reason it appeals to me is that it forces you to turn ideas into actions and, if you can’t work out the steps to implement an idea, maybe it’s not such a great idea after all. It also allows you to work in manageable chunks; there’s inevitably more to do than resources available. So, the breakdown into steps and tasks helps to “size” the effort needed and then prioritise. The GIST approach also doesn’t force you to plan every idea down to the task level. You can quite easily prioritise the order in which you want to work on the ideas and, just like with Scrum and agile sprints, you can re-prioritise based on your learning from what you’ve already done.

Below is a mindmap example from one of the projects. Level 1 is the Goal, Level 2 is the 3 ideas and Level 3 shows the Steps associated with each idea.

GIST Innovation Project


It’s just as easy to use SmartArt in any of the MS Office apps, for example:


I think GIST planning is a great way to turn ideas into action; it enables you to value and prioritise ideas and, visually, it’s easy to understand (ideal for using PostIt Notes as well). Interestingly, as a facilitator, the area I’ve had to help people with most is in defining their Goals. It’s easy for people to end up describing what they want to produce, rather than what they want to achieve. One team started by saying their Goal was to produce a toolkit; eventually they recognised that what they really wanted to achieve was an increase in small business start-ups, i.e. an economic goal. That’s a typical issue which I’ve written about previously (Objectives vs. Deliverables).












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