The process of turning your strategy and goals into action is called action planning. It is the process of planning for the purpose of your ideas into reality. In other words, action planning is working out what exactly you need to do to get where you want to be. The required skills personal goals and organizational goals are the same.
Action planning must be part of your strategic thinking. After all, it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is on paper if you can’t implement it. So action planning ought to be a crucial part of the strategizing. But often it’s not.
Leading and Implementing Change
It will be clear from this that managing change is not a simple operation. On the other hand, it is a very human process, requiring human skills.
Good change managers and leaders need primarily to be very good at engaging with people, with good Empathy, and excellent Communication Skills. They need to be good at motivating others and have very strong Emotional Intelligence, in particular a good understanding of themselves, and strong resilience.
If we consider the styles of leader who are likely to be good at leading change, they are likely to be authoritative if a vision is needed in a Kotter-style change process, and affiliative or democratic to involve others in a change that is more constant-state-of-flux-type change.
To learn more about leadership style, take a look at our page on Leadership Styles
In both work and life more generally, it is easier to see progress if you can break tasks down into more manageable chunks.
The aim of your action planning should be to identify those manageable chunks, and who is going to do them, then allocate the action.
The final part of your action planning should, of course, be ongoing monitoring of progress against desired outcomes and outputs. After all, an action plan is only as good as the work it achieves
The Difference Between Strategy and Action Planning
In order to ensure that the organization is ‘aligned’, that is, that everything and everyone within it is lined up and working towards the organizational strategy, everyone in the organization needs to be able to explain and understand exactly how what they do fits into the overall strategy.
This can only be achieved when the organization and leaders are very clear about what actions will lead the organization to achieve its goals. Because what do people do on a day-to-day basis? Actions.
Strategic Thinking Skills sets out how you can create a strategic plan. The last stage of this is to identify the actions needed to make your plans a reality. This page provides more information and ideas about how to achieve that. There are two big questions to address in action planning:
What actions do we need to do to achieve the goals?
What actions do we need to stop doing in order to achieve the goals?
Kotter’s Models of Change
1) Unfreeze, change, refreeze
This model works on the basis that you have to drive change by creating urgency towards it (unfreezing) before you can create a vision for change, and drive the organisation towards that through short-term quick wins. Once you have achieved your vision, you consolidate (‘refreeze’) and institutionalise your changes.
2) The Eight Step Model
This is a considerably more detailed model of change along very similar lines, which has eight steps rather than three:
Build the guiding team
Get the right vision
Communicate for buy-in
Create short-term wins
Don’t let up
Make it stick