Saturday, May 21, 2011

Action planning

Strategic planning skills are what we use in our own lives only we tend not to write action plans. For example if we were organising a dinner party (our project) we would need to

  1. Agree with those that we live with that we will do this and perhaps agree who will do what;
  2. Agree on guests and date;
  3. Invite our guests;
  4. Understand, perhaps we will need to ask, what their food requirements and preferences are;
  5. Ask if there are any other issues – will they be brining children, pets or a friend who might be staying with them;
  6. Confirm you guests attendance and needs (3-6 may all be done in one phone call);
  7. Make a menu from recipes (old and new) – perhaps we will do this within an agreed budget or try to use many ingredients that we have already or perhaps finance is not an issue;
  8. Ask ourselves – do we have enough plates, cutlery, napkins, candles and do we want say fresh flowers on the table;
  9. Buy food, drink and perhaps other items as identified above;
  10. Plan the cooking of the food;
  11. Clean the house and lay the table;
  12. Cook the food;
  13. Serve the food.

And this all needs to be done by the appointed time and date.

There are clearly stages which may be linked – so you wouldn’t buy the food without knowing that your guests had accepted the invitation or what they liked to eat/were allergic to.

There are milestones – guests accepting; menu decided; shopping done; food cooked. By setting times and dates for these there is a sense of the project building towards its completion. Depending on your skills and the time available you will probably decide when things need doing e.g. if they are coming on Friday night and you work full time and are out on Thursday night you will probably think, ‘I need to shop on Wednesday evening’ – unless you can shop during your lunch hour.

There are different types of activity which include
  • Decision making;
  • Allocating jobs;
  • Setting a budget;
  • Buying the resources;
  • Planning how the work will be done; and
  • Carrying out the work.

And there are risks – you cannot get a certain ingredient, you forget to take your shopping list, your car breaks down and you can’t do the shopping or you forget to chill the wine! So what actions might we take to mitigate against those risks – many of us already do this – we write lists, we change our recipes slightly or we ask our neighbours, we get our food delivered or sometimes we start planning earlier so that we have time to say go to another shop for an ingredient.

This is the sort of thinking that we do all the time – from our social lives to our work lives to our family lives and to our spiritual lives. When we are doing this planning with others and when it involves significant resources, time and money then we need to write things down and agree to the plan.

The simplest action plan is


By whom

By when

Resources required

How we will know it’s been done

What is to be done

Person’s name


Often this is about money but may be about time.

Evidence of action

More complicated action plans will have milestones – such and such has to be done by a certain time. They may also have categories of actions – say inviting the guest, the food, the drink, the house – and then within that you have a range of actions. We may also add a risk analysis – we would certainly need to do this for a large project.

The thing to remember is that we all have the skills and the knowledge. When working together we need to formalise these things and make sure that we have agreed things and that everyone knows what is expected of them and by when. When you achieve results through good planning it is a real boost and I find that time invested in good planning is repaid several times over.

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