A simple approach I have found works well when thrown something to look at and unsure of where to start is to focus on what you are trying to achieve and working back from that.
I first had this approach shown to me using post-it notes (aka sticky notes) and have used this approach (albeit usually with Visio) many times.
The steps to follow are very simple:
- Write down on a post-it note what the ultimate outcome is.
- Write down on separate post-it notes for each activity or output required what needs to occur before you can get to the ultimate outcome, and stick this to the left of (1).
- For each task that is a predecessor of (2), write it down and stick it the left and repeat until you are back far enough that you have a plan of attack.
The beauty of post-it notes is that you can’t write much on them, so write just enough in simple terms so that you know what is required (which may be outputs, tasks, workshops or anything else of value). It is also easy to add missing tasks as you go and to change the ordering if required.
This does not need to be an overly detailed process and I don’t worry about classifying whether something is an output or activity but instead use this as an approach to understand what needs to happen first and to also be able to communicate the plan to others.
Communicating with others is also very valuable in terms of validating and refining what needs to happen (and in what order) and getting their buy-in. One trap I have fallen into is that if you get too detailed then this will scare some people, so sometimes abstracting to a higher level may be more appropriate for some audiences.