How to Develop an Ironclad Action Plan
It has been said that vision without action is a dream, and action without vision is a nightmare.
In business and in life, it is important to not only know where you are going, but exactly how you plan to get there. The map to success is called your action plan. An action plan is the detailed strategy of how you will transform your vision into an achievable reality.
Often, when charged with completing a sizable task, the urge is to dive right in and start making progress. Resist that urge and take just a moment to carefully consider what you are trying to accomplish and the best way to execute on the goal.
Below are a few things to consider when developing your action plan.
- Start with the end in mind- This cannot be understated: know what you want to accomplish. Don’t focus on the tasks yet, but rather on the desired result. Are you striving to raise a metric, complete a specific project, or make a big sale? When you start the planning phase mired in the process, it can be difficult to get out of that thinking. When your first consideration is your goal, you open the door to creative thinking and more precise solutions.
- Brainstorm approaches- Now that you are clear about what you want to accomplish, come up with a variety of ways to accomplish that goal. Get the obvious ones down on paper right away so you can get out of the box and get innovative. Sometimes your first inclination is the best one, but occasionally, brainstorming can produce unexpected ideas that move your plan from good to great.
- Analyze, delegate, and prioritize – Once your approach has been finalized, look carefully at every step that must be taken to execute. What needs to happen, by whom, and by when? It is critical to get this all down in writing. To many, action planning is this step alone. Analyzing processes, delegating tasks (possibly allocating additional resources), and prioritizing the sequence of events (including timelines and deadlines) is the roadmap of your strategy, but it is not the end of your action planning.
- Monitor progress – once your plan is put into motion, stay with it. Make sure that milestones are being met on time and that quality is maintained. Check with team members for progress updates and suggestions to either overcome obstacles, or improve efficiency. You want to avoid surprises, especially when nearing the end of a project, so stay close during the execution to ensure success.
- Review success – At the completion of a task, take some time to reflect of the effectiveness of your plan before hurrying on to the next job. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? What worked about your plan? What didn’t? What will you do differently next time? Are there any overarching themes you discovered about your processes or resources that need to be addressed for future success?