Have a goal you want to achieve? Improve your odds by creating a clear plan. Planning, after all, is the organization of hope. Part 1 of this blog series explored how to conduct an environmental scan and identify sub-goals. Today’s Part 2 offers a high-level overview for creating and assigning action plans and then executing and evaluating the plan.

Create and Assign Action Plans

The third step in the planning process is to identify the necessary activities to achieve the immediate sub-goals, and by extension, the larger overall goal.

These activities are detailed in action plans. The action plan template includes the following:

  • What will be done (the specific action)
  • Who will be doing it
  • When the activity will be undertaken and completed
  • Estimated cost (combined action plan costs become the overall plan budget)
  • How the activity will be evaluated

Let’s see how this works with one of the sub-goals introduced earlier: “Create a high school recruiting strategy.” Some action plans to accomplish this sub-goal might include:

  • Conduct online research to identify best practices for high school recruiting strategies
  • Assess current high school recruiting plans/activities
  • Create a list of the high schools where our secondary education program and/or counseling graduates are working
  • Create a list of potential high schools
  • Identify current students from those high schools
  • Launch a brand strategy in the targeted high schools
  • Create a schedule for visiting high schools; prioritize high-potential new schools and then visiting schools with existing/ongoing relationships

Notice that these actions are largely sequential (i.e., some actions must be completed before others can be initiated).

Execute, Evaluate, and Modify

The final step in the planning process is to execute the plan—and this step also includes ongoing evaluation and modification.

Let’s take a look at these three activities in greater detail.

The action plan template outlined above details who will be doing what, and when. This level of detail is essential for successful execution. Without naming “who,” it is likely nothing will happen. The “what” details the precise activity to be undertaken. Without a “when,” things will slide.

Evaluating progress occurs at two levels. First, was the action plan completed? And second, did it move you toward achieving the overarching goal? Evaluation also helps hold people accountable for completing their activities by a specific date.

The final step involves the possible modification of future activities based on an evaluation of recently completed activities. This modification may include fine-tuning an action plan, radically revising the action plan, or even eliminating an action plan.

Insights gained early in the plan’s execution can profoundly and positively affect activities slated for later in the plan’s implementation.

Modification can also involve adjusting the plan budget. If key activities require greater than anticipated funding, you must identify future action plans that can be re-scoped or even eliminated.

Lessons Learned – Five Ways to Improve Plan Performance

It’s helpful to end with some important lessons we’ve learned over the years about planning that will help improve the performance of your plan.

  1. A written plan won’t help you accomplish something your institution is philosophically opposed to doing. I remember a client once asked me to help them write a brand plan even as key members of the senior team were opposed to the idea of brand marketing.
  2. Have the budget in hand before you launch the plan. Continually scrambling for dollars in the midst of plan execution is both debilitating and distracting.

Take the time to evaluate. Not only will this improve plan performance, but it sends an important signal to the campus community that performance matters.

  1. Communicate plan successes early and often. This helps build morale and increase political support not only for the plan, but for future funding.
  2. Don’t become emotionally wedded to specific activities. Your sole focus must remain on achieving the larger goal.

We hope these insights help you proceed more confidently with your next planning project. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at becky.morehouse@stamats.com.

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