Planning Basics

An introduction to the program planning phase.

What is program planning?

This phase is officially kicked off with the closure of the initiation phase. In this phase, we take the previous output of the initiation phase and dive into more details. We gain better clarity on how we will accomplish the overall vision and objectives of the program.

Inputs and outputs


The primary input is the program charter. This should contain details such as:

  • In-scope vs. out-of-scope

  • Initial stakeholder list

  • Working agreement

  • High-level OKRs


The primary output of planning is the program plan. It includes elements such as:

  • The work breakdown structure: This organizes themed chunks of work.

  • Roadmap with milestones, detailed objectives, and key results: This provides an artifact to track progress against.

  • RAID log: This helps us understand initial potential risks, assumptions, issues, and decisions or dependencies.

For each of these elements in the program plan, you're merely setting a baseline during program planning.

The program plan (sometimes called a plan of record or plan of intent) should be seen as a living artifact. As the program progresses, circumstances may change, and you must adapt the plan. It is not meant to be carved in stone, never to be changed again. You can adapt and change when necessary.

Any changes to the program plan should be in the interest of preserving the objectives and key results. Those should be the last items to change. We'll dive more into this topic in phase three: execution.

Monitor program health

Remember the "A Healthy Program" lesson?

We learned that a healthy program consists of three healthy vital signs: vision, alignment, and execution.

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