If you have ever worked for the public service, you’d know how much public servants love writing action plans. Sometimes these documents run to more than fifty pages and include multiple tables, figures and attachments. Public service action plans usually include definitions, project back ground, project context and at least a couple of pages thanking the document authors. Of course these documents are written in public-service speak, for example if a public servant wants to find out what the community wants from a particular government organisation then the public servant must “engage” with the public – I think that’s another way of saying “talk to people”. The public service “community engagement and communications action plan” will then include a bureaucratic definition of engagement that reads something like this:
Engagement refers to a planned process involving two-way dialogue with the specific purpose of working with communities and stakeholders to encourage discussion or active involvement to inform a project or program decision.
Next the public servant will give the “engagement phase” a title, something along the lines of “Community Ideas Orientation Phase”. Is that bureaucratic enough? It can take a team of public servants weeks even months to produce an action plan (with multiple definitions, tables, figures and attachments). The great irony is that usually more time, resources and energy are spent writing the action plan than actually carrying out the action, or rolling out the project. TV shows like ‘Utopia’ and ‘Yes, Minister’ are pretty close to the mark when it comes to life in the public service.
On the other hand, most small business men and women struggle to find the time to write an action plan. They are too busy getting on with the job, while only earning half of what a senior bureaucrat is paid. But a practical, straight-talking business plan is an invaluable tool to a business owner.
What is a business plan?
A business action plan is a document that lists the main goals of your company. It should also specify the ideal timeframe in which to achieve those goals. The goals may be to grow customer numbers, employ more staff, increase profit and win awards. A good business action plan will include a step-by-step guide on how to achieve goals.
Your action plan only needs to be one-page long – not fifty pages like a public service document – but once you’ve written it, put it up where you and your employees will see it regularly, perhaps in the lunch room. The company goals and required actions should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The aim of an action plan is to turn dreams into reality – to make aspirations achievable.
How to write a business plan
Begin your action plan by giving it a title, perhaps Company’s Z’s priorities in 2017 or just Company Z’s Action Plan. Remember that a business action plan can be updated or amended at any time to reflect the changing business environment. Think of your action plan as a dynamic, evolving strategy, not a static document.
After coming up with a title you need to write a company ‘mission statement’. Is it to provide the best quality or best prices? Is creativity and innovation a priority? Do you want profits to increase as staff are trained in customer service? Do you want your staff to feel more connected to the business and have a sense of pride in their work?
After you have written the company mission statement, list every goal you want your business to achieve over the next 12 months. Do you want to improve your profile on social media? Improve customer service? Open new outlets? Win awards? After listing your goals, prioritise them in order of importance.
The next step in writing a business action plan is to go back to each goal and describe exactly what action is needed to achieve that goal. You need to say who will carry out each action and in what time frame. Also when will the project begin and end? What resources or training are needed to get the job done? Who in the company needs to be informed of the details of each enterprise? Go into details. If you want to improve your social media profile, how will you do this – on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube? Who will be in charge of updating your webpage? How often will new content be published?
Remember, it is vital that deadlines be recorded and tasks assigned to individuals in the action plan. This document can also be helpful when resolving disputes between employees over responsibilities or assessing the performance of staff. If you are thinking for using the document to assess staff performance, you need to invite staff to have input into writing the action plan. Do they think the goals set are fair and achievable? What do they need to make these goals attainable? You might want to hold a staff meeting to discuss and draft the action plan. You should then hold follow-up meetings to assess whether you are on track to achieving the listed goals.
It is also crucial to outline a budget in the action plan. List the expenses involved in achieving each goal. Again, remember that this document does not need to be complicated – two pages at the maximum. You are not a public servant, you don’t need to produce fifty pages! The action plan could also include a timeline, outlining where the business is now, where it will be in six month, where it should be in 12 months and where it could be in three years. Would you like to increase sales by 10% in six months, and 20% in a year? Or would you like to win an award within three years?
You could also draw up a simple table with headings such as Goal, Action Required to Achieve Goal, Completion Date, and Staff Member Responsible.
Action plan (how)
To improve social
To post new content
Web content will be
Make sure you’re on track
As the company owner you need to ask yourself every day if you are on track, or do you need to adjust your action plan to make achieving your goals easier. In your first action plan, you might want to only focus on goals for this year and then write a new plan for next year. Next year’s action plan will of course record the previous year’s successes!
Finally, always celebrate achievements with the people involved. Celebration helps keep everyone interested in the company and create a sense of ownership among people.