Developing an Action Plan for Real-World Improvements
This article was written by Robert Chittenden.
When I was much younger, I was impressed with the organisational structure and teamwork of the Scouts movement. We spent several years having fun and always doing activities and camps. The constant message of “Be Prepared” was repeated time and time again. To this day, the “Be Prepared” approach has set my thinking patterns to always have “Have a plan!” Now I realise, after working with many different companies, the importance of knowing how to write an effective action plan that has a clear outline of how to achieve a goal. You can have the very best, most creative and innovative ideas, but without a written action plan to outline the steps you need to achieve your goal, you are most likely to be running nowhere, fast.
Here we will look at the steps I use to take a team through the process of developing an action plan to implement the tasks needed to achieve a goal. This is done after the Future State Mapping activities. The aim of the action plan is to capture the details and outline what needs to be done, who is doing it, when it needs to be completed by and any further information to support the team.
Create the Action Plan
Step 1 – Write out the goal you are working towards. For more information about writing a clear goal, see the article on Defining the Problem. The same principles apply.
Step 2 – List all the step by step actions needed to achieve the goal. Clearly identify which actions will work towards remedying the problem or which will eliminate the problem altogether. It is helpful to review the pros and cons for various results of actions before implementing your solutions.
Step 3 – Refine the action list. Once a full list of actions has been outlined, consider the key actions and delegate the “nice to haves” as subtasks.
Step 4 – Plan what resources will be required and how they will be obtained. This needs to include all resources such as the people to complete those tasks, the time it will take, and any budget or expenses needed to complete the actions successfully.
Step 5 – Review if additional education or training needed. This needs to cover both the actions to achieve the stated goal and any backfilling of people as they move into a project team and others are covering their day to day activities.
Step 6 – Plan to build commitment. Consider how you will communicate to all of the people who will be affected by changes; internal teams and external suppliers and customers. We often see the failure to achieve a goal come from not sharing the plans with people who we initially see as “don’t need to know”. EVERYONE in an organisation is part of the team and has a vested interest in what is going on, so everyone needs to know!
Step 7 – Identify how you will measure the effects of the actions as they are implemented. Define your performance indicators to measure the impact of your actions that were identified in step 2.
Also, consider how you will measure the actions that have been completed. Develop a tracking system for measuring changes in the action plan and performance indicators (for example, include a graph for recording data collected.) Develop a system for monitoring actions against the implementation plan (A check sheet or the measurement plan can work well)
Goal – reduce water damage to cartons during shipping.
Performance indicator – the percentage of cartons per shipment with damage.
Target by 5% in 2017.
Step 8 Assign responsibilities and due dates for every action.
Step 9 Communicate and share the plan. The more accountability you have with your team and company, the more likely you are to complete the actions and stick to a plan! Display the action plan using the Action Planning worksheet, a tree diagram, a timeline or A3 Plan.
Finally make sure your action plan is complete, clear, and current. Does your draft list all of the action steps necessary to reach your goal? Are the steps clear to all parties involved in the business? Are the actions according to the latest rules, regulations, and technology?
Your action plan will be a breathing, living document, so be open to many changes along the way. With any plan that you have, it is important that you stay motivated throughout the process so that you will have enough energy and motivation to see the plan through to the finish.
Implementing the Action Plan.
This is where the team implements the action plan and tracks actions relative to the plan.
Step 1 – Regularly review the action plan to ensure that everyone clearly understands what is to be done, by whom, and when. Check to be sure you have methods and resources in place for:
• Educating and training involved employees.
• Building the commitment of all involved
• Tracking completion actions
Step 2 – DO the actions.
We often feel like we can’t repeat this enough – DO THE ACTIONS. Don’t make excuse, put them off or try to be perfect to the point that nothing gets started! Get started, take the first step and DO THE ACTION!
There is more and more research around how to implement any type of change to the status quo, we need to act our way to a new way of thinking, not thinking our way to a new way of acting.
Step 3 – Track each action in the action plan. Verify that it was followed and identify the results. Record what was actually done.
Step 4 – Do the troubleshooting as needed to support the implementation of the actions. Take any remedial steps necessary to remove roadblocks and deal with unanticipated negative side effects of the change efforts.
Step 5 – Display completed actions versus planned actions as a record of your implementation.
It is critical that the team record exactly what actions are taken, as this will help you analyse the success of your action plan later.
When the goal has been achieved and the change is in place, the team can now examine the data collected to analyse how the expected results were obtained.
Step 1 – Compare the results against your performance indicators. Display the data.
Step 2 – Analyse the results, noting any effects observed, whether they were good or bad. Translate the improvements into dollar values that are relevant to the business, if possible.
Step 3 – Document any side effects observed (positive or negative) results.
Step 4 – If you did not achieve that targeted results assess:
- Was the plan adequate?
- Was the solution to your plan complete and appropriate?
- Was the analysis of the problem correct?
At this point, the goal is to understand as much as possible about what happened. Even wildly surpassing your goals is meaningless if you do not understand why or how you did it.
This article is to remind you of the importance of thinking through the creation of an action plan, making sure your plan is as good as it can be with the time and information you have at the time and then GETTING IT DONE! And then remember to review and make changes as you need to, to achieve your goal. Good luck!