How to Herd Cats…Using Compression Planning®

Grant writing often involves big ideas and things we’ve never done before.  Involving multiple people. And multiple ideas. And conflicting ideas. This is why I traveled across the county to attend a Compression Planning® Institute.  I wanted to learn Compression Planning®. The formal definition of compression planning is: a visual brainstorming process designed to bring out a group’s best thinking and energy on a specific issue in an environment of fair play and equal participation led by a skilled facilitator.


And here’s how I can use it in my daily work as a grant professional:  1) Get clarity around an idea, quickly; 2) Get consensus around issues that are stalling the team; 3) Determine major focus areas for a project and; 4) delegate the workload.


While my first recommendation is to attend the Compression Planning® Institute, if that’s not possible in the short term, I’ve put together a few quick tips to help your next planning meeting inspired by the Compression Planning® model.

4 Planning Meeting Tips Inspired by Compression Planning® 

1) Do your homework. As grant professionals, we are exceptional at this task.  Before you get folks in a room together- decide what critical pieces of information they need to make decisions.


2) Decide what you need to decide.  Identify a client for your team, the key decision maker, and determine with the client what critical decisions need to be made in your planning session.


3) Get bossy.  Set ground rules and enforce them.  Time limits around specific topics have an incredible way of forcing discussion and creating a sense of urgency, i.e. “She’s only going to give us ONE MORE minute!”


4) Capture every idea.  Pat McNellis shared in the Institute many wise insights but one that resonated with me is the simple fact that everyone just wants to be heard.  You can ensure that everyone is heard by putting every idea on the board and including every idea in the report.


Happy Herding!


What ways do you currently use to gather ideas and facilitate group discussion and brainstorming? We’d love to hear in the comments below!


  1. Katie Kraushaar October 26, 2018at1:46 pm

    Looking forward to seeing this in action next week!


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