Saturday, February 25, 2012

What to put in an action plan

I am helping a local organisation with their business planning and we got onto what should go into the action plan. I know this organisation reasonably well and know that they are continually developing new initiatives - they are fairly new and there's quite a bit of energy around both from staff and from volunteers. So my advice was to see what they have been doing in the past six months. The manager produces a weekly report so I suggested that she should cut from all her reports the details of the new activities e.g. meetings with potential new customers or partners, and paste them into another document. Then print out this document and then cut it up so that each activity is on a separate small piece of paper.  Then sit on the floor or in front of a large table and group activities together so that you have categories. She should then have the beginnings of her action plan - she would have the categories and know what she's already done - the actions are then how to develop that work.

The problem with many action plans is that people think it's about doing lots of new stuff.  But whether we are paid staff or volunteers most of our time is spent doing what needs to be done to keep our organisations running smoothly. There is usually a bit of development and this needs to recognised as such. Sometimes a development can be to do the same things but to do them differently. If we are doing nothing new then perhaps its time to sit down with our fellow trustees/committee members and ask ourselves 'What is stopping us for doing new things?'

The business plan (before the action plan) should provide the history and the background and the reasons why we are doing whatever it is we are doing.  If there is not a consistent narrative say from our values and the outcomes that we want to achieve to our actions then that's when we need to change something.  We may have to change our values - but that should be a last resort.  We may have to change our desired outcomes - that would be a shame but may reflect lessons learnt in the real world. We may need to change what we do or how we do it - which is often easier to say than to do.  However we do need to ensure that what we are trying to achieve (our outcomes) and how we achieve these (our values) should logically lead us to what we are actually doing.

The are some (many?) people who hate the idea of doing this sort of thing.  My experience is that it can be very illuminating both in telling us will the good work that we do and also what work we think we are doing but aren't.

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