The planning process is essentially "how" the plan is developed - the means, the methods, and the sequence of planning activities. Typically, the process takes approixmately nine months to complete and follows a rather rigid, linear course from beginning to end. But, unlike the discipline, which is altered only at the peril of seriously weakening the plan, the process quite oftern must be adapted to local conditions and requirements in ordeer to achieve optimal effect.

Yet, even so the process must never sacrifice its necessary time-on-task, results-oriented character. Never can it be waylaid by convenience or comfort. And, most important, apparent inconsistency in the process can never be allowed to cast doubt on the credibility of the plan itself. Ideally, any modification in the process outlined here will be made and agreed upon before the actual planning is begun, and set forth as a formatted schedule to which all parties will adhere rigorously. Mid-course changes usually run the risk of both prolonging the process, diluting its substance, and losing credibility. The one cardinal rule of every facilitator and participant should be: "Trust the process."