True confessions: I’m a planner. When I start working with a business client one of the first questions I ask is “Do you have an Action Plan?” Not a Strategic Plan, although that’s very important too, but an action plan. When they ask me why they need one, I quote Alan Lakein “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
Why I like action plans (and think you should too)
- What gets planned gets done.
- Focus—many of us suffer from shiny object syndrome… we get distracted and off course.
I like to use a one page action plan. There are many models out there and some pretty good templates too. The key is to decide a time frame and make sure that your plan has measurable outcomes. The concept of SMART goals is still relevant because it works…
How do you write an action plan? In addition to including the obvious who, what, where, when and how in your action plan, I invite you to consider using the elements of my personal motto: connection, creativity and courage when putting together an action plan:
- Connection—make sure that your plan is relevant to your mission, your goals and your target audience.
- Creativity—what will you do? How will you do it? How will you be different from your competition?
- Courage—ask the hard questions: Is this feasible? Is this the right path to take? How will I hold myself/my team accountable?
When do you write an action plan? At the beginning of each project. If you have a strategic plan for your business, each section in your plan should have an action plan for implementation. It’s important to remember that action plans are not meant to be static… I suggest that you break down the action plan into weekly chunks. The more detailed your plan the better and the more easily it can be monitored and measured.
How do you incorporate the action plans once you have them? I’ve worked with some businesses that use action plans as a reference point in every staff meeting. Each team member reports out what they did that week. The beauty of weekly action plans is that it they make for easy course correction: as you are carrying out the different elements of the action plan and regularly measuring against targets you can quickly see what is working and what is not.