Session 05: Drafting the Planning Phase (Again?)

Untangling Project Conflicts
Revisiting Compass Statement Definitions

Hey. Hi. Hello and welcome to this session of the How to Make Guides project where I’m creating a guide to instruct users to produce their own guides – from concept to release. In the previous session, I drafted as much of the Planning Phase I could while discovering a lot of major updates required for the project management guidelines. There was a follow-up session where I assessed the situation regarding all the major updates and long story short, in this session I’m going to draft the Production Phase.

I will begin by placing all the content created for the How To Guide at the bottom of this document. Above that I’ll put an Action Items section. Then at the very bottom, I’ll place the Production Phase content from the Project Management Guideline to draw from. I expect this session to be rather hefty on account of filling out the vagueness of the production phase of the project management guidelines with actual step-by-step process of crating a guide.

Dissecting the Production Process

Where to begin? Let’s start with the overview of course! “By the end of this phase, you will have the first drafts created, internally reviewed, and edited for an external audience.” At first it’s weird to have the Internal Review as part of the Production Phase when the next phase is Review. While I understand the reasoning behind this (as we all hope that I would since I was the one who made this choice) I don’t think it translates well.

The original reason for this was that this was sort of a “due diligence” step as part of production phase but I know that personally I have skipped it every time (it’s only been like three projects since its implementation but still) since I forgot about this step during production. When reading the guideline step-to-step, it’s easy to see and remember but when shoulders-deep in production, once the first draft is ready, I’ve instinctively assumed the phase was over and celebrated as I prepared for external review. Would moving the internal review into the Review Phase change my behavior? Maybe?

After some contemplation, I’ve decided to leave it “as is”. It is super important to me that this is done as part of Production. The chef must taste the soup and the creator must review their work! Checking the project task list for this project, it is included as the last item under Production Phase – so if I’m following the task list like I’m supposed to then it shouldn’t be missed.

I think I’ll add an action item about project flow – the project task list must be (A.) a living document and (B.) referred to before and after each session. Also, I didn’t mention anything about using project phase steps in the project task list. I should do that. Oh. I see now. I should have a “How to Have a Session” guide. Right? Here are the steps to take to have a session the Cryptiquest way?

Okay. I guess all that was necessary to assess the overview. Next is the first step.

Step 1: Create the first drafts of the product defined in the project goal.

The current instructions for this step are a placeholder. This is where the actual instructions for creating a guide come into play. Fortunately, since I’ve been taking notes as I’ve been building this, I can go back and start to draft the instructions based on what I’ve done. Step-by-step, users will follow a refined version of the process that made the very guide they are following. How poetic.

Looking through the notes, the first session was all about planning this project, which doesn’t apply. Then there’s the design session. While Cryptiquest guides will have design standards set, I think for this guide, I should have the design guide as a separate tool for which users can reference or otherwise have them go through a similar process to understand how to design for users. So should the first step should be to consider design?

The reason I did design first wasn’t to determine the final design of the guide but to determine design scope – even though I didn’t refer to it in that way. But the idea is that I was going to determine big picture design decisions in the onset so I have something to keep in mind during production and and a foundation to work from during implementation.

Okay. So how does that apply to our users? Little Taylor wants to create a guide for a new game of tag they invented. They are determined and have followed all the planning materials up to this point. They have their project task list and they come to the production phase and the first thing they’re hit with is designing the solution?

I suppose the design session was more of a research session dedicated to answering some questions about design and guide building. It was about assessing the resources, etc. So the first session should be dedicated to research – which makes a lot of sense. Not sure why I didn’t see that back when I conducted that session but whatever.

After I conducted the research session, I started production from “top to bottom” of the outline (I suppose the outline should be established during the research phase). Then I started to work on the phases (which is where I’m at now). In our Little Taylor example, they would use the phases section to describe each phase of the game play. Maybe something like: “Playing Tag While You’re It” and “Playing Tag While You’re Not It”. This part will be kind of vague unfortunately (as will the Appendix).

Something to consider, since “Little Taylor” has been brought up: in the last session I had reworked the needs for this project as an example and it revealed some potential objectives that were not addressed during the planning phase. Specifically how tools should be Useful – which is defined as “Tools must be engineered for ease of use by the novice creator. “

The NOVICE creator. I need to define this. Cryptiquest doesn’t tackle the breadth of global diversity until the “Access” portion of the Road Map but I think I’ve discovered a glaring gap between the company objectives and the company values. There was, at one point, a project slated to revisit the compass statements once the objectives were complete. I see now why that might have been important to do. In “Session 05: Defining the Ideal State” session of the Compass Definitions project, a NOVICE was defined as “The person is either new to creation or relatively new to being a person”.

For now, it might not matter as the Target Audience for this project was marked as “Mostly Internal”. I suppose I should spend a single session to work this out after this session. At any rate here is the outline of steps to go over for production:

  1. Research Your Topic
    • Content Resources
    • Outline
    • Presentation Format
  2. Overview Information
    • Guide Name
    • Guide Version
    • Guide Summary
    • Guide Overview
    • Review Preparation

I wrote a draft below. While doing so, I decided to break up the above outline into TWO different phases: Planning Your Guide and Drafting Your Guide. I’ve drafted the the first phase and I’ll tackle the next phase in the next session. I’ve added three new Action Items, two of them are new guides that need to be created and the third is another single session that I will try to tackle before continuing this project.

See you there!

Action Items

  • Create a “How to Have a Session” guide.
  • Conduct a single session to suss out how to approach company value definitions.
  • Create a “Styling Your Guide” Guide.

Producing Guide Projects

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How to design, create, and launch a guide to help users complete a task or a series of tasks.


This guide provides step-by-step instructions to help you create a guide of your own. This guide incorporates Cryptiquest creative project management standards which provides a pathway from planning to publish. By following the process provided within this text, you will:

  • identify what resources you need to make the guide;
  • design the presentation parameters for your guide;
  • draft and review the content for your guide;
  • produce and test your guide;
  • publish and launch your guide; and,
  • debrief and officially close your guide project.

Preparing for Guide Production

In addition to this guide, and a desire for producing a guide of your own, you will need the means to create documentation.

Producing the Guide

Phase 1: Planning Your Guide Project

By then end of this phase you will have an understanding of what you are creating, why you are creating it, and how you are creating it.

Step 1: Identify the needs you are trying to solve.

You have a desire to create a guide. Now consider what needs this project is trying to satisfy. What problems are you hoping to solve or outcomes do you hope to gain?

It can be useful to journal questions to dig deeper into the project needs. Cryptiquest offers a free Project Need Analysis tool for you to use for this purpose. It is included in the Appendix of this guide for convenience.

Step 2: Describe the ideal solution if obstacles didn’t exist.

If money or physical limitations weren’t a problem, what would the best solution be to meet the needs of the guide? Performing this exercise may help you to better visualize the project goal or remove a preconceived idea from your head. Since the ideal solution you conjure is not necessarily within your means of production, it should only be treated as a tool and not serve as a commitment.

Step 3: Explore the scope of the project.

To be completely rewritten…

Step 4: Define the project goal.

The project goal defines how your guide will meet your core need. Your goal will start with “to create a guide that will…” followed by a short description of the need being solved.

Step 5: List out the objectives for this project.

The objectives serve as a litmus test to determine whether the project was successful or not. They ensure that the project meets criteria that are important to you. If you don’t know what criteria are important to you then you may want to consider starting a separate project to determine your personal (or company’s) objectives.

As you list objectives, they need to be written with a measurable and neutral structure. Consider the following example: “The story is entertaining.” This is not objectively measurable. How do you determine if a story is entertaining in a way that’s not subjective? A better way to write this could be: “When surveyed, all reviewers report that the story is entertaining.” Even though the reviews themselves will be subjective, there is an objective unit to measure: reviewer survey ratings.

(Need to add step-by-step example using reference once it’s identified.)

Step 6: Create a project task list to provide a pathway toward launch.

The project tasks you identify will provide a pathway toward success. Your goal is to make a project task list – an outline which highlights the work needed for each phase in order from start to finish.

Each work item highlighted is called a “task”. A task can be as big as “create all marketing materials” or as small as “create a social media post”. The granularity needed for each task varies from creator-to-creator, project-to-project, and even phase-to-phase. However, a good point of reference is to break down a task to what can be achieved in a “session” (or the fewest number of sessions – in the case of larger tasks). A session is a chunk of time where you sit down to work on the project. This will vary based on creator (for example, Cryptiquest strives to use three hour chunks as sessions).

Often you won’t be able to predict what tasks are needed without first starting the project. Particularly, it is tough to predict implementation without production. So either make your best guess or list out each step of the project phase and use those as your project tasks. You should refer to the project task list before and after every session, updating to reflect changes as needed.

Phase 2. Planning Your Guide

You’ve planned your guide project but now it’s time to plan the guide itself. By the end of this phase, you will have researched your guide, drafted and outline, and identified a presentation format for your guide.

Step 1. Research Your Topic

Before you can properly produce your guide, you should understand the topic, estimate an outline, and determine the design style that is necessary.

If you do not understand the topic then you need to conduct some research. You hopefully identified one or more trusted sources during as part of the scope of the project. If not, now is your chance to do so.

To research the topic, review the sources and note, highlight, or otherwise document points that should be explained in your guide. Do not attempt to write the guide yet – just write down notes for now. By the time you are done with this step, you should have read through your sources and created a collection notes to work from. If you do not feel as though your notes are complete enough, consider seeking out new sources to draw from.

Step 2. Revisit Project Objectives and Scope

Once you have conducted your research, read back through your project objectives and product scope to ensure your results align with your vision. If they are not aligned then you either have to refine your notes, find different sources, or run through the planning phase again and update it to reflect a new direction.

Step 3. Draft Your Outline

Once you’ve conducted your research and it matches your vision for the project, you can draft an outline for your guide. You most likely already have an idea of how the information will flow. Most guides follow the following outline:

  1. Title
  2. Version
  3. Summary
  4. Preparing for “the Endeavor”
  5. Phases
    1. Phase 1
      1. Step 1
      2. Step 2
      3. Etc.
    2. Phase 2
      1. Step 1
      2. Step 2
      3. Etc.
    3. Etc.
  6. Appendix

Step 4. Determine Presentation Format

Think about how you wish to present your guide and be sure to pay special attention to parts that require more than just text to explain. Cryptiquest has a helpful guide for formats (included in the Appendix of this guide). Above all else, remember that the goal is to guide your reader and you should do what you can to ensure they can read it as easily as possible.

Untangling Project Conflicts
Revisiting Compass Statement Definitions