Groups are empowered in planning when they focus on priorities and areas of breakthrough. ToP accomplishes this by wiring people’s minds together so that they immediately recognize those priority areas and then put energy into making big differences. ToP planning is biased toward implementation, meaning that big picture ideas are always translated  into details of implementation and measurables. Because of this, people commit to follow through because they know what they need to do.

Technology of Participation planning was recognized internationally in the mid 80s when ICA was granted Consultant Status category II to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission. ToP planning has created significant breakthroughs in Fortune 500 companies, in governments, in the not-for-profit sector and in communities around the word.  Books written about ToP planning include Transformational Strategy: Facilitation of ToP Participatory Planning by Bill Staples, Winning Through Participation by Laura Spencer, Beyond Prince and Merchant by John Burbidge, Participation Works by James Troxel, Government Works by James Troxel.

Case studies

ToP planning methods and tools that engender high levels of participation and commitment include:


Participatory Practical Vision allows any size group to project its imagination into the future to capture and describe in fairly practical terms what the group actually wants in their desired future. The result is a compelling and motivating vision that all participants are generally committed to. Can be done with any size group and takes 1.5 to 3 hours.


Use the Obstacles Workshop whenever a group wants to move forward but for many reasons are stuck in the present and know that they are stuck. This provides a safe way to uncover and discuss the “elephants” in the room that people have avoided up to this point. This is a highly structured workshop format that allows for full and deep discovery that leads to breakthroughs. Can be done with 5-30 people and takes from 1.5 to 3 hours.


Tac Tac Toe Breakthrough Strategy gets a lot of input from many people on various approaches that could be taken to move forward. The result is a consensus on the main strategies that are needed by the group and resolve to move ahead. This can be done with any size group and takes 1-2 hours.

Use Prioritizing Implementation when a strategic focus is required to select a breakthrough from among several existing or new strategies. The result is a visual reminder of a timing and resource prioritization, as well as the experience of urgency to move quickly and with power on the necessary breakthrough. This can be done with any size group in 20-40 minutes, larger groups taking the longer time.


The Measurable Accomplishment tool takes everything down to who does what when for how long and with how much with what result, including measureable process and outcome indicators. People are empowered to do what they have actually decided and accountability and communication structures are built right in. All ToP planning is biased toward implementation and this is where the rubber hits the road.

ToP Secrets of Implementation

This tool takes advantage of the many shifts and changes in circumstances that occur during implementation to allow self and group learning to take place, all of which accelerates implementation. This is a key not only to implementation, but also to continuous improvement.

This tool used regularly shifts organizational culture.