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Action Planning

This lesson is a part of an audio course Facilitating High Performing Meetings by Ross Maynard

All meetings have a purpose, and, in broad terms, that is to make decisions and agree the next steps. The outcome of any meeting, therefore, should be some sort of action plan. In some cases, this might be a simple agreement of who will do what by when. But quite often, when you are facilitating a group, a more detailed approach is needed, and I advise a two-step method:

  • Strengthen the selected ideas.

  • Create the action plan.

Step 1: Strengthening the Selected Ideas

Once the group has selected a shortlist of ideas that look like they help address the problems that the group is facing, it is time to build on them further to make them as impactful as possible; and to aid the action-planning process.

To do this, I like to get the group to explore, in some detail, what success looks like for each idea – and what failure looks like for it. This involves challenging the group to examine key questions about the idea.

To do this, we take each idea in turn and examine it by discussing a series of questions:

To explore what success looks like for the idea, the questions are:

  • What would a successful implementation of this idea be like?

  • What is the best that could happen?

  • What results would that best outcome deliver?

  • What must happen for that best outcome to be achieved?

  • What actions are needed, by whom, for that best outcome to be achieved?

To explore what failure would look like for the idea, the questions are:

  • What would a failed implementation of this idea be like?

  • What is the worst that could happen?

  • What results would that worst outcome deliver?

  • What would need to happen for that worst outcome to arise?

  • What actions are needed, by whom, to avoid that worst outcome?

This discussion might lead the group to changing their shortlist of ideas to be implemented. Ideas that initially seemed good might be dropped, while ideas that had previously been left off the shortlist might be reconsidered.

To further strengthen each idea, you should also ask the group to consider its impact on the stakeholders who are affected by the issue – that might be customers, suppliers, employees, and others.

The questions that we can use here are:

  • How does the idea impact this stakeholder?

  • Is the impact neutral or positive? If so, why, and in what way?

  • How can we strengthen this impact for this stakeholder?

  • How can we mitigate any negative impact for this stakeholder?

As you can see, these discussions with the group will be generating actions for the implementation plan, and now we can move onto that.

Step 2: Creating the Action Plan

Once you have got this far, the actual planning should be the easiest part. The group will have generated so much energy reviewing, refining, and strengthening their improvement ideas that the action plan for should just flow naturally.

The Action Plan marshals the resources of the organisation to deliver the performance improvements envisioned.

Various formats for the plan are possible. I generally use the following headings:

  1. Category – where you have a number of actions, it might help to group them into categories. For example, you might use categories like people and skills; procedures and work instructions; health and safety; equipment; I.T., and so on.

  2. Action – this is the activity that is going to take place.

  3. Desired outcome – this is the outcome that this specific action should achieve.

  4. Persons responsible – here, we indicate the person or people who will implement the action.

  5. Resources needed – if resources are needed to implement an action – for example, equipment, authorisations, and so on – we detail it here. We might need separate actions in our plan to source these resources.

  6. Location – where the action will take place.

  7. Timescale – the target date for completion of the action.

Your action plan might take one of several formats, from a simple spreadsheet, to a Gantt chart to a full-blown project management programme.

Completing the action plan is a source of celebration, and you should congratulate the group on their plan. However, it is not enough. The implementation of the plan is what matters, and you should schedule future meetings to review progress.

Thank you for listening to this lesson. In our next lesson, we look at how to keep your facilitation fresh and relevant.

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Written by

Ross Maynard