Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Action Plan

One very useful tool in overcoming inertia is an action plan.  This has been given a hundred names (one of them – the First 100 Days – might almost be said to have become institutionalized among politicians).  But the idea is useful as something to grab the imagination of all involved and jump-start the organization (company, crew, city, state, country, etc.) as it moves in a new direction.

In simple terms, the action plan is nothing more than the translation of the strategic plan into specific actions for each department or division or section of the organization.  And constructing an action plan is actually fairly simple, except for one thing: it requires hard decisions.

Imagine a large industrial firm with a good deal of competition.  For the sake of the discussion it might have the following major departments

And one other division: Plans (and Competitive Analysis)

The strategic plan being complete – and specific timelines identified, each department is now given individual goals.  This should be done as a round-table effort between the executive and the department heads – mixing aggressive performance and wisdom – moving fast, but not too fast, balancing the entire organization so that one department doesn’t move too quickly or too slowly relative to the others.

With various time lines or performance gates clearly established, each department now identifies what they need: in personnel (specific types (engineers, architects, welders, drivers, carpenters, secretaries, etc.)) and levels of experience, and specific training – for each location of the organization); what types of equipment, what types of facilities, how much additional money, IT support, etc.

It is during these sessions – at which the Boss (be he the Chairman, President, CEO or whatever other title is used – the Boss is whoever gets to actually make binding decisions) must make the final decision on who will do what, when.  As each department presents its proposed timelines and requirements (in manpower, material, etc.) the Boss needs to make the final call that will bring everyone into a coherent package – that makes it a team solution, while providing the details that turns the strategic plan into specific tasks for each department.

It is during thing development that each department will establish performance standards – metrics – by which progress will be measured.  These too are presented to the Boss for his final approval.

Each department then will spend a few days – at most several weeks – developing the individual tasks for each office in that department – within the assigned timelines.  These are presented to the Boss – and once approved, these are compiled by the planning team and become ‘the Action Plan.’

The one element that needs to be mentioned it the Planning Team, which also takes on the role of the Competitive analysis team; simply put, their job is to watch the competition and to watch the market place and to ensure that as the plan is developed and implemented that it remains relevant to what is going on in the world around you.  That is a huge task stated in a single sentence, which is why your brightest people need to be on your planning team.

Finally, all this is then packaged into a presentation to the entire organization – giving everyone an overview of each of the steps being taken by each department, and an overall review of the goals and plans of the organization as a whole.  Then, unless you are in a fairly small organization, each department will break off and present to its people their specific departmental action plan.

And once that is done, as soon as is humanly possible – Begin!  Do not hesitate, sooner is better than later.  One final word of advice: place some ‘low hanging fruit’ in the plan for the first 30 or 60 or 90 days, things that can be done that are only moderately difficult, so that each department can show progress; establishing and maintaining enthusiasm in the initial phase of the plan is essential for success.


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