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  • Writer's pictureMatthew B. Courtney, Ed.D.

Your Guide to 30-60-90 Day Planning

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Welcome to #BeyondTheMean! Check out this post to see what this blog is all about.

Are you overwhelmed by the sheer scale of your continuous improvement project? 30-60-90 day planning is a planning method that breaks down big tasks into tiny pieces that can be easily completed. Ever heard the phrase you eat an elephant one bite at a time? Well, 30-60-90 day planning is how you eat an elephant! In this short post, I will help you get started with your next planning cycle.

Let’s start by considering when 30-60-90 day planning is appropriate and who you might want to include on your team. As the name suggests, 30-60-90 day planning cycles last for 90 days and divide your project up into small, bit-sized pieces that you can deploy and monitor over 30 day periods. This type of planning instrument works best when it is deployed with a team of dedicated stakeholders who are working together to solve a persistent problem of practice.

Select the 30-60-90 day tool when you are launching a new project or working towards a medium-term goal. This is a good tool to help you break down big tasks into manageable pieces. It also helps keep big projects moving by building in monthly check points. Let’s say that your team is designing a new Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) system. A 30-60-90 day planning tool may be the right tool because it will allow you to break down the project into tangible pieces. You can easily document who is responsible for each part, when each part is due, and how you will know when the step is complete.

A word of warning –this tool isn’t great for monitoring ongoing work. It’s really designed to help you plan out a project. Once your big project or goal is achieved, consider switching to a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle while you monitor the maintenance of your new system.

Creating a 30-60-90 day plan is easy. To start, write down the name of your project on a white board or piece of chart paper. With your team, spend 15-30 minutes brainstorming the various components that need to be researched, developed, or built to complete your task. I like to use sticky notes for this task, because it allows me to move the parts around freely while brainstorming.

Once you have all of pieces laid out, consider the sequence of events. What is the logical order to complete each of the tasks? Does each task need to be completed in succession or can two or more pieces be moving at the same time?

Finally, pull up a 30-60-90 day template and start filling it in. If you don’t have a template, head over to The Repository and download my eBook, Tools that Drive Continuous Improvement. Document the tasks that can be completed within the first 30 days. Make sure to assign a point person to each task and define the product that each task will produce. Repeat this process for the 60 and 90 day benchmarks. If you need more time, you can keep going out in 30 day increments. I once wrote a phased policy roll out plan that was 18 months long!

Check in every 30 days as you work the plan. You will probably need to move stuff around or add new items that pop up while you’re working. That is okay. Allow your plan to be a living document that reflects the work and passion of your team.

When your project is complete, set aside some time to do some reflection. Consider which elements of your plan worked well, which elements didn’t work, what new lessons you learned, and how you will change your deployment of the planning tool next time.

Through careful planning and reflection, the 30-60-90 day planning tool can provide a valuable structure to help you reach your big goals. It focuses on breaking your project down into tangible steps and then provides opportunities for check-in, reflection, and adjustment along the way. I hope you will give this tool a shot when its time to start tackling your next big project. Good luck on your journey friends, and let me know how I can help.


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