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Orient: Navigating the Initial Phase of a Task

By December 4, 2023January 8th, 2024No Comments

Last week in the article, Proper Planning: A Hallmark of the Learning Organization , we introduced Gasparotto Group’s framework for the Planning and Execution of tasks. This framework is broken down into seven stages: Orient, Think, Plan, Refine,  Execute, Measure, and Learn. This article will expand on Stage 1 – Orient, often referred to as the discovery phase.

The Orient Stage

The Orient Stage is foundational in the planning and subsequent execution of a task or project. Proper orientation ensures that the task is sufficiently understood, the resources required, the limitations and constraints, and the operating environment. Typically orienting to a task follows these steps:

  • Information Gathering. This could include written and verbal guidance, understanding expectations, questions, researching relevant and supporting documents, procedures, instructions, and standards.
  • Identify Resources. What resources are available and/or limited: Time, money, human, material, technology, obstacles, limits, etc… The nature of the task and project will set the priority for resource allocation, identify the critical path and constraints, and determine risks.
  • Convene a Planning Team. Most tasks and projects require a multidisciplinary team to execute, accordingly they likely need an equally diverse team to plan. Ensuring the right people are engaged at this stage, or as a minimum on standby to support planning, is critical.
  • Establish Communication Channels. Effective and efficient communications, passage of information, knowledge management, and decision making is vital during the Orient stage, even more so when working with remote and hybrid teams.
  • Feedback Loops. Regular and structured check-ins with stakeholders are key during this stage. They ensure alignment, require reflection, evaluate efficiency and provide the opportunity to adjust and adapt.

The Outcome

The effort placed in the Orient Stage of a task or project will produce the guidance and baseline to develop an initial plan. A comprehensive and disciplined orientation process will lead to:

  • Identifying Stakeholders. Key stakeholders will be identified along with their expectations and how they will measure success.
  • Efficient Planning. A clear picture of the task and its enablers will provide a clear understanding of resources, limitations and constraints, gain efficiencies, increase effectiveness and minimize waste.
  • Defining Milestones.The orientation process will break the task into smaller chunks, identity enabling and dependent activities, and measure progress.
  • Enhanced Collaboration. Clear and established communication channels and feedback loops and will improve communication with stakeholders and planners and set the conditions for collaboration and support.
  • Assessing Skills & Knowledge. Determining if you have the required skills and knowledge, expertise and qualifications, to complete the task is crucial. During orientation you will determine if these exist internally and if not, what gaps need to be filled, and possible sources of external support to do so.
  • Improved Problem Solving. Potential challenges may be identified and mitigated making problem-solving swifter and more effective.
  • Embracing Flexibility.The information gathered during the orientation stage will set the conditions to remain adaptable to changes during the detailed planning and eventual conduct of the task.
  • Greater Confidence.Clarity of the task and metrics for success and progress instills confidence for individuals and across the team members.

The Orient Stage is often overlooked or marginalized, the tendency to jump right into planning the task needs to be resisted. Investing time and effort into this stage builds the foundation for detailed planning and the eventual successful conduct of the task.

It optimizes the next stage of the Gasparotto Group’s Planning and Execution Framework – Think.