Fundamentals of an action plan

The process of action planning (also called operational planning) consists basically of directing the daily activities of an organization or project. It involves scheduling the things that need to be accomplished, when they need to be accomplished, who will accomplish them, and what resources or inputs will be required to accomplish them.

I’ve met a lot of small-business owners, many of whom were impressively intelligent and had a very creative mind but who unfortunately were not getting past the wishing phase with a lot of their projects, otherwise great projects because they got stuck in their mind. Some were my clients and I couldn’t help notice how they liked to talk and dream for many and many hours about what they would want to achieve, but when I asked for details and specific things there was a big hole there to be filled. Most of them never filled it. Why? Because they kept doing the same unproductive things over and over and they kept on hanging on to the same bad habits that were getting them nowhere.

“A good financial plan is a road map that shows us exactly how the choices we make today will affect our future.” (Alexa Von Tobel)

It was and I admit it still is very surprising for me that so many businesspeople don’t see the advantages of setting clearly measurable goals. Some stop at defining their objectives, offering much to less importance to also defining the resources, time and capital they would need to put in to make those objectives attainable. It also may come as a surprise for many that in order to make your dreams real, you don’t necessarily need to be the biggest brain on the planet, nor the most gifted person alive. You can do it without the touch of a genius. But you most certainly can’t do it without willpower and focus, and firstly, without a realistic action plan.

I’ve been asked several times even recently about the difference between an action plan and a business plan so I’m using this opportunity here to clear things out for others out there who might have the same question: if you have an action plan which you are using to help you obtain funding, or to convince potential partners, buyers, clients to get involved into your business or project in some way, then you technically have a business plan.

All the essential features we mentioned and which should be part of any action plan (what must be accomplished (objectives); the specific stages that must be followed to achieve this objective; timelines/schedules for when each step must take place and how long it is likely to take; designation of the person responsible for keeping track of how the tasks are completed; a specification of the necessary resources) are again invoked when planning activities step-by-step. This is extremely important if we want to make the plan really applicable, to get down and practical with it – it’s only this way that you will be able to successfully implement the steps necessary to reach your objectives.