Using Action Plans
Just this week I met with a salesperson who reminisced: “Dad was a ‘strategic thinker’ around the house when we were kids. When Mom asked him to do something, he would say, ‘This needs to be done first, and then that,’ and so on. He would start a job five or six jobs ahead. He was always busy, but he never got anything done.”
Like stamp collecting and watching sports, management action planning can be a perpetual hobby. There are always more stamps and games, and there are always steps to plan before other steps. Like the salesperson’s father, management keeps busy.
The word “action” means “something done or performed.” As much as management loves action planning, it often involves very little doing or performing aside from creating lists, reporting to committees, and revising the lists. If something is “done,” it’s often in a preparatory context (form a committee, send emails, create a position, buy equipment). If outcomes stay the same, nothing has really been done.
But action plans can work.
Writing down what we intend to do guarantees that we will accomplish something. While we can get bogged down maintaining, managing, and organizing “to do” lists, action plans are more specific and contain a beginning, middle, and end. Tasks are listed in the order to be achieved with assignments and deadlines. They focus a team on a goal. Indeed, there is no team without a plan.
But an action plan is only an effective tool if the team sees it. I’ve created action plans, for example, and taped them on a wall so everyone can see what’s been happening and how far along a project is. My plans usually include a review of best practice, development, training, implementation, education, and review phases. A good plan has something for everybody; some people are great at designing forms, others are more comfortable presenting to groups, etc.
Discussions, committees, complaints, and ideas are not action. Only doing is action, the blind side of bureaucrats. Which reminds me, my lawn isn’t going to rake itself.
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