"Everybody has a plan until they get hit." - Mike Tyson
Effective people operate with formal Action Plans, regardless of whether the project they are engaged in is a day long or a year long. Without Action Plans things that need to get done to achieve the desired results don't get done—or at least don't get done on time. However, most Action Plans fail to be effective because they don't follow the proper path from creation to conclusion. The following steps along the Action Plan Path are required to get the desired results out of any Action Plan:
1. Do you even need an Action Plan? Ask: Is this project worth doing at all? If the answer is "no", don't waste your time! Move on to a more worthwhile project.
2. Is your Action Plan realistic? Unrealistic Actions Plan—those that can not be achieved regardless of the effort put into them—demoralize those who struggle with the futility of impossible implementation. And make any future Action Plans suspect.
3. Can you see the clear results at the end of the Action Plan from the beginning of the Action Plan? If not, clarify the purpose of the Action Plan before going any farther.
4. Have you involved everyone who needs to be included in implementing the Action Plan in creating the Action Plan? Get expressed buy in to the Action Plan. Leave one required person out of the creation of the Action Plan and you have a barrier to the implementation of the Action Plan that you will need to overcome later—and what is the point of that?
5. Have you established a firm Start Date and a firm End Date for the Action Plan? There needs to be an unequivocal date when things start so inertial is overcome and when things end so that perfection can be avoided.
6. Have you recognized and addressed the potential "bottlenecks" that will slow the Action Plan down? Bottlenecks are inherent in any Action Plan. They may be needed time, needed resources, needed people. Bottlenecks will inhibit Action Steps and need to be specifically recognized and addressed during the creation phase of the Action Plan.
7. Have you broken the Action Plan down into "chunks" that are measurable as Milestones established on specific dates? The more complex or long the Action Plan, the more it needs to be broken down into "mini-Action Plans", however, to be the most effective even a day long Action Plan needs to be "chunked" into 90 minute segments. A year long Action Plan should be broken down into weekly or monthly chunks depending on complexity and the number of people involved in the implementation of the Action Plan.
8. Depending on how long the Action Plan is, have you established specific, concrete Action Steps for each day/week/ month of the Action Plan? Because the lack of clarity kills Action Plans, as many specific Action Step as possible need to be plugged into the Action Plan.
9. Have you assigned the Action Steps, with a specific completion date, to those that will do them? Action Plans that linear in nature. They require Action Steps be accomplished in a specific order before the next Action Step can be taken. If the person assigned an Action Step does not complete their Action Step, then the next Action Step cannot be completed.
10. Have you established the concepts of Accountability? Accountability needs to be assigned along with Action Steps and the consequences of failing to be accountable clearly understood
11. Have you developed a Follow Up Plan? A reasonable Follow Up Plan—short of micro managing but definitely paying attention to—is based on compliance with the Action Steps and is essential for an ongoing determination the Action Plan is on track and on pace.
12. Have you reduced the Action Plan to a visual & given it to everyone involved? Big and bright and something to hang on the wall works best.
13. Are you regularly updating the Action Plan? Everyone involved wants/likes to see Progress. Update the Action Plan on an appropriate schedule—daily/weekly/monthly—and send it to everyone involved big and bright.
14. Are you generating enough Buzz? Keep everyone geeked up about a longer term Action Plan—two weeks and longer—with Achievement Celebrations as the Action Plan's Milestones are reached.
15. Have you prepared for the unexpected? Collective flexibility and improvisation - the ability to solve the unexpected—is required is required to meet the inevitable barrier if the Action Plan exceeds the simple.
16. Are you prepared to be persistent? The longer and more complex the Action Plan the more Energy is required to complete it. At some point the Energy Level will be low and persistence is required to push the Action Plan forward.
Now that you know the Action Plan Path, your Projects have a much greater opportunity of being successful. Of course that does require that you use the Steps!