Confusion between Project Titles, Outcomes and Purpose in the Natural Planning Model

Nerevar

Registered
Hello Everyone,

It's my first post here!

I started to implement GTD for a few weeks now relying on some online courses. Since this got me so many benefits and I wanted to deep deeper and decided to get a copy GTD book (2015 Edition). I particularly got interested in the Natural Planning Model and found these interesting articles and templates on the Evernote blog to get me started but this led me to a lot of confusion. I hope you can help me clear them out

In the Evernote article, the author asks to name the project in a way that describes done, like Complete The Monthly Report but also demands that we give the project an outcome. These both seem the same to me plus in GTD Book there is no project title only outcomes and purpose. Can one help me clear this out?

What's the difference between purpose and outcome in this model? They seem at the same time similar and different.!

Is the next action selected from the organized tasks done in the earlier phases?

If you have any example of a project done using this method I would love to see it.

Thanks
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Projects usually have an underlying purpose and a desired outcome. This weekend I removed our old stereo system from the living room. The purpose was to make better use of valuable space. The desired outcome was “Old stereo removed.” Because that is short enough to fit on a list, it was also the title. Sometimes the desired outcome is too long for that.

A current project should have at least one next action. In the project support material for a project, you may have possible next actions, ideas, possibilities, dreams and maybe a nightmare you want to avoid. You may have a GANTT chart. If you finish one next action and know intuitively what you want to do next, that’s fine. If you need to do a two-hour review of the project plan to figure out what’s next, then do it, or schedule it on your calendar, or put it on a next action list. The natural planning model is a tool for planning, and not a blueprint.
 

Nerevar

Registered
Just came back from a long hiatus. Thank you for your answers.

Projects usually have an underlying purpose and a desired outcome. This weekend I removed our old stereo system from the living room. The purpose was to make better use of valuable space. The desired outcome was “Old stereo removed.” Because that is short enough to fit on a list, it was also the title. Sometimes the desired outcome is too long for that.

What still puzzles me is the name of the project at least when I read the book vs the event template. Does the Outcome = Name of the project?
 

PeterByrom

Registered
An important thing to remember is that the steps of the natural planning model all flow on from, and inform, each other:

1. PURPOSE & PRINCIPLES: why are you doing this project in the first place? And what rules / standards do you need to work within while trying to achieve it?

2. OUTCOME VISION: ^ if this purpose were successfully achieved, while staying faithful to your principles, what would it look like?

3. IDEAS: ^ what immediate brainstorm comes to you when you consider the outcome vision?

4: STRUCTURE: ^ having captured all the thoughts in the brainstorm, what plan can you come up with when you now apply your critical thinking, sequencing, and selecting to them?

5: NEXT ACTIONS: ^ given the plan you’ve just devised, what are the very next physical steps you need to take to get the project in motion?

So, what you choose for your purpose & principles will then affect what your outcome vision is, which in turn will affect what ideas you come up with in the brainstorm, which then determines the raw material you have for structuring a plan, which then directs what your next actions should be.

If my project of taking someone to dinner is for a romantic purpose rather than a business deal, I’ll likely end up with quite a different set of answers and next actions! ;)
 
Last edited:

Nerevar

Registered
An important thing to remember is that the steps of the natural planning model all flow on from, and inform, each other:

1. PURPOSE & PRINCIPLES: why are you doing this project in the first place? And what rules / standards do you need to work within while trying to achieve it?

2. OUTCOME VISION: ^ if this purpose were successfully achieved, while staying faithful to your principles, what would it look like?

3. IDEAS: ^ what immediate brainstorm comes to you when you consider the outcome vision?

4: STRUCTURE: ^ having captured all the thoughts in the brainstorm, what plan can you come up with when you now apply your critical thinking, sequencing, and selecting to them?

5: NEXT ACTIONS: ^ given the plan you’ve just devised, what are the very next physical steps you need to take to get the project in motion?

So, what you choose for your purpose & principles will then affect what your outcome vision is, which in turn will affect what ideas you come up with in the brainstorm, which then determines the raw material you have for structuring a plan, which then directs what your next actions should be.

If my project of taking someone to dinner is for a romantic purpose rather than a business deal, I’ll likely end up with quite a different set of answers and next actions! ;)

Thank you for this Peter. Looking at the model step as one flowing from each other made me better understand it, my initial way of looking ta was of a puzzle with each element connected to the other.

However, some stuff still puzzles me. Is the name of the project and outcome of the project the same in this model? Or this model doesn't address "project names". Second is the Outcome, in which way are different or linked to the Horizons 6 (goals and objectives)?
 

PeterByrom

Registered
Thank you for this Peter. Looking at the model step as one flowing from each other made me better understand it, my initial way of looking ta was of a puzzle with each element connected to the other.

However, some stuff still puzzles me. Is the name of the project and outcome of the project the same in this model? Or this model doesn't address "project names". Second is the Outcome, in which way are different or linked to the Horizons 6 (goals and objectives)?

The project name is a short, single sentence summary which is enough to summarise the outcome such that it focuses your mind when you read it, but short enough to fit on the projects list!

The outcome vision in the natural planning model can be more elaborate.

Example:

Project name:

“CRM system integrated”

But if we start applying the natural planning model, maybe we get something like this:

1. PURPOSE & PRINCIPLES

- To enable our business to expand in the modern era.
- ensure a coherent and trustworthy experience for customers
- value long term customer relationships
- make sure that marketing and business decisions are informed by good data.
- adhere to data protection laws.

2. OUTCOME VISION:

All essential and relevant customer data is captured and curated in a Contact Relationship Management (CRM) software solution which integrates fully with any and all of our existing systems, which interact in any way with customer data, and becomes a single source of truth for all marketing campaigns and strategy, as well as everyday customer communications. Every staff member knows how to use it and why, and can do so easily. Our company passes all data protection audits with flying colours. We see our income double over two years from the launch of the CRM, and customer complaints are cut in half over a single year.

... see what I mean?

When you look down your projects list, among them will be “CRM system integrated”. But if you want to unpack it in more detail, then this outcome vision will be in your project plans if you’ve applied the natural planning model.

Notice that the project name still describes the outcome with a verb though! “CRM System *INTEGRATED*”!

As for how the natural planning model integrates with the horizons, it’s all a subset of the project level, because you’re doing a deep dive into a project:

H5: PURPOSE & VALUES
H4: VISIONS
H3: GOALS
H2: AREAS OF FOCUS
H1: PROJECTS:
— 1. Purpose & principles
— 2. Outcome vision
— 3. Ideas
— 4. Structure
G: NEXT ACTION(S) — 5. Next Action(s)

Notice how it’s a bridge between the project level and the next action level (ground level).

That said, however, I don’t see any reason why somebody couldn’t apply the natural planning model to something larger, such as goals or visions. The key point though is that the steps of the model help you to create greater perspective and direction, and they will always bring you down to the next action level.

Does that help?
 
Last edited:

Nerevar

Registered
The project name is a short, single sentence summary which is enough to summarise the outcome such that it focuses your mind when you read it, but short enough to fit on the projects list!

The outcome vision in the natural planning model can be more elaborate.

Now I get it, it makes more sense. I think we like gamification or need some confidentiality we can also give the project some code name while keeping the real outcomes inside the natural planning model.

H5: PURPOSE & VALUES
H4: VISIONS
H3: GOALS
H2: AREAS OF FOCUS
H1: PROJECTS:
— 1. Purpose & principles
— 2. Outcome vision
— 3. Ideas
— 4. Structure
G: NEXT ACTION(S) — 5. Next Action(s)

Notice how it’s a bridge between the project level and the next action level (ground level).

Does that help?
Yes The natural planning model as a bridge is the great model.

Thank you very much @PeterByrom thanks to these certifications things are way clearer for me.
 

Jared Caron

Healthcare Quality & Safety pro; GTD enthusiast
Now I get it, it makes more sense. I think we like gamification or need some confidentiality we can also give the project some code name while keeping the real outcomes inside the natural planning model.


Yes The natural planning model as a bridge is the great model.

Thank you very much @PeterByrom thanks to these certifications things are way clearer for me.


Hey there,

This is such an awesome question! It gets us GTD nerds all excited because once you grasp the power of the GTD project list you can really start to feel the impact of the system in producing "stress-free productivity." I think its most helpful to answer this in two parts - first, project names, and second, the NPM.

1. Project Name
In a sense, you are correct that the project name = the outcome. As outlined above, your project title should always describe the outcome you are seeking. Its like a snapshot of the finish line. Try to envision your projects list as an index of all the outcomes you're committed to. Examples from my current project list:

Work projects
Implement new **** policy
Submit proposal for **** procedure
Troubleshoot ***** process

Personal projects:
Look into buying a house
Share & print photos from vacation
Refresh winter wardrobe
Read Extreme ownership book (actually re-reading - excellent book, highly recommend)
Transfer to new graduate school

As you can see, a complete version of this list would produce a "table of contents" for your work. Something you can easily glance at (or study thoroughly) to provide triggers for actions to take or great creative thinking. It also helps you evaluate the full contents of "what's on your plate."

So yes, you want to describe the outcome of the project in a simple concise statement for your title, rather than having vague items like "new policy" "grad school" "house" etc.

The natural planning model, however, serves a different purpose than the project list.

2. The Natural Planning Model
This model is really just a scaffold for fleshing out project thinking and helping facilitate... well, planning! I would caution you to avoid feeling like you must work out all aspects of the NPM for all your projects. That's a path to overload. As David describes in the book, how much planning you need to do will depend on the projects. Especially for more complex projects, writing out a more detailed description of the outcome or outcomes can be extremely useful. For simpler or more mundane projects, this might be overkill.

For instance, I am not going to write out Purpose, Principles, Vision/outcome, brainstorming, and organized next-actions for reading the book. I'm just going to read it. Having it on my project list functions to remind me I'm trying to finish that book and may help inform any decisions to start any new reads.

The NPM is a super useful tool for identifying where/at what level you need to do more project thinking or planning and provides a nice way to organize that info. I probably don't use the NPM for 80+% of my projects. For those projects where I do bust it out, it is tremendous.
 
Top