Plan of Action: Crucial Tool for Successful Consultants
We all know that a plan of action should be drafted before starting a mission, but we have also all been tempted to shorten (or completely cut out) the planning phase and jump straight into the doing phase. It is OK if you have previously completed a similar mission, right? Wrong. Drafting a good plan of action is essential for any mission, no matter the circumstances.
A good plan of action will not only help you manage your work and objectives, but will also act as a guide and benchmark for your team and your client. What makes a good plan of action? One that is clear, definitive, communicated, flexible, and most importantly has a large degree of usability. Follow these suggestions to create and leverage your plan of action for maximum effectiveness.
1. Work backwards.
When drafting your plan of action, ask yourself these three questions first: What is our final goal? What resources do we have available? How much time do we have available? Take time to clearly define and write out these answers. After you have a clear idea of the big picture, then break it down into smaller, manageable steps that outline exactly how to reach your goal. Within these steps, detail specific tasks, deadlines, budgets, and resource allocation.
2. Incorporate flexibility.
When creating your plan of action, keep the constraints of the future in mind. If months go into the planning and the final document is 20 or more pages, it is certain that something will need to be changed. On one hand, it is important to be clear, but remember that the overall goal is to use time efficiently and effectively. Realize that you can’t predict the future, and don’t waste your time trying to do so by creating an overly detailed plan. Clearly present your steps, but keep open communication and know that modifications may need to be made, especially long-term.
3. Establish and highlight critical success factors.
How is your plan of action performing? It is important to be able to judge the success of your mission in many different stages. When your team, your client, and you, yourself understand and benchmark against clearly defined criteria, you will be able to evaluate, change, and improve your performance much more easily. In addition, your team will be more motivated to reach or exceed the goals knowing exactly what is expected of them.
4. Publish in high-visibility places.
Now that you have developed an excellent plan of action, use it daily. Don’t put it in your bottom desk drawer; instead, keep it on your desk, in your planner, or on at your fingertips on Google Docs. This will help you keep important tasks prioritized on the day-to-day level, and prevent too much wasted time in busywork or firefighting.
5. Communicate with your client.
This step is especially important in the realm of consulting. Make sure both you and your client understand the three important aspects of your plan of action: specific tasks, time needed, and resources required. Clarifying your plan of action will eliminate misunderstandings down the road and ensure that you both fully understand mission and the costs.
6. Delegate tasks to your team.
If you are working as part of a team, it is essential to have a shared plan of action as the basis of sharing and delegating tasks. Assign the tasks according the strengths and weaknesses of your coworkers, and then allow them to independently complete the task following the goals and guidelines in the plan. This will save time in naming and explaining new tasks to coworkers and ensure a more complete understanding. However, it is important to find some time to review with your team about progress, potential roadblocks, and new information discovered.
To get started on a plan of action, download our free template from the marketplace: Plan of Action Template.