Do More in Less Time with Compression Planning


“Have you ever heard of ‘Death by Planning Session?’ That’s when committees take 6 weeks to come up with a solution and 18 months later they’re still at it.” 

The 7-step visual Compression Planning system helps leaders who feel like they are drowning in an ocean of quicksand due to all the useless, boring and unnecessary planning sessions and meetings they get trapped in. ( 

Imagine that you could spend two hours in a planning meeting and come away with a project plan and a communication plan. Sounds too good to be true, right? Compression Planning, a style of project management, makes it possible and SynED is ready to bring it to California’s community colleges. 

Jerry McNellis created Compression Planning in 1974 after spending years observing efficient boards and advisory groups across business, government, and education. He knew there had to be a better way for these groups to accomplish their work without losing time or money in the process. 

The Compression Planning method involves a two-hour, highly-facilitated planning session lead by a certified facilitator. The facilitator uses storyboards to encourage visual thinking and discourage people from getting bogged down in language. The session also covers who needs to know about each step of the project plan — something that groups often overlook during the planning process. 

SynED Project Manager Lee Yarborough attended a Compression Planning training session over the summer and is excited about what the system can do for higher education, which is notorious for scope creep and committees that are too large to be productive. 

“You walk away with a detailed action plan and a communication plan that would have taken six months to plan in other systems,” Yarborough said. 

Compression Planning sessions are restricted to 8-12 attendees, which forces everyone in the room to participate and share their ideas and work through differences of opinion quickly to reach consensus and move on to the next phase of the planning process. 

Yarborough will use Compression Planning to help the Inland Empire create a plan for bringing virtual labs to its community colleges, much like the South Central Coast Region is currently doing.  

“We were asked to bring a real project with us to the training, so I took the Inland Empire virtual labs project,” Yarborough said. “Now that I’ve finished the training, I can’t wait to get started and put Compression Planning to use.” 

Compression Planning has been used across higher education from large public institutions to private liberal arts colleges. In a testimonial on the Compression Planning website, Morris Beverage, President of Lakeland Community College in Ohio said:  

“We were hired by an area university to help with a problem they were stymied with. They tried to develop a specific program for two years, but they kept going around in circles. 

With one Compression Planning session, they were finally able to generate action steps that they had struggled to come up with for two years.” 

Pamela Jira of Zane State College in Ohio used Compression Planning to solve a problem that is familiar to colleges across the country: 

“Sometimes faculty members have an idea of what they want to do, and they’re not really sure how to make it specific. How do they make it into a form that we can apply for a grant and fund their idea? One group I did Compression Planning with involved four cooperating organizations who wanted to help girls get more interested in science. We received a four-year grant for $800,000.” 

For more information on Compression Planning, visit or contact Yarborough at [email protected]. 


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