The Definitive Guide to Creating an Action Plan

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Why do action plans fail? This is a question that has haunted management gurus and leaders forever. All companies place a great emphasis on strategy, business plans, policies, etc. And yet, most of them struggle to achieve their goals.

Studies from the past decade suggest that up to 90% of organizations will fail to affect their strategies and achieve their goals. Each study arrived at its own set of conclusions for why companies fail, which range from:

  • A backward approach that prioritizes planning over action.
  • Lack of emphasis on human motivation.
  • Cumbersome and needlessly time-consuming steps.
  • Lack of stakeholder involvement.

While we may continually add to this list, the bottom line is that people fail to take correct and timely action. When teams and employees are confused about procedures, don’t care about the outcome, and start pursuing their own agendas, then plans, as well thought-out as they may be, are bound to fail.

These problems can be avoided by putting together a good action plan, which is undoubtedly tricky. We have put together a comprehensive list of steps and suggestions you can use to create an action plan that will help you and your team accomplish goals like clockwork.

 

How To Create An Action Plan – Content Index

Chapter 1: What is an Action Plan and Why Do You Need One?

Chapter 2: Creating a SMART Action Plan

Chapter 3: 5 Steps for Creating an Action Plan

Chapter 4: Tips to Write a Compelling Action Plan

Chapter 5: How to Gain Stakeholder Buy-in for Your Action Plans

Chapter 6: Using Pareto Analysis to Prioritize Action Planning

Chapter 7: Tools to Help You Create and Implement Your Action Plans

Chapter 8: Why SweetProcess is Ideal for Creating and Managing Action Plans

Chapter 9: Three Action Plan Case Studies

Conclusion

 

Chapter 1: What is an Action Plan and Why Do You Need One?

What is an Action Plan and Why Do You Need One?

First, let’s start with the obvious question. You probably already have a business plan, sub-strategies, policies, etc. in place. Why go through the trouble of creating a separate action plan? Isn’t the whole point of having a plan to get to where you want?

Plans have a strategic component and an actionable component. While the theoretical part of a plan explains the future state that needs to be achieved and how the organization will benefit from it, the actionable parts break down the steps needed to achieve the future state laid out in the company’s strategy.

That being said, action planning has a softer aspect that’s harder to get. Here’s an awesome video from Lifehack on why people give up on their plans and how to see them through:

We often use words like strategy, policy, procedure, processes, and plans interchangeably when they are not. It’s important to understand that not all kinds of plans or documentation are designed to be actionable.

The Three Ps of a Good Action Plan

The Three Ps of a Good Action Plan

The strategy-action relationship is best understood through the policy, process, procedure framework since it’s the best-used method for understanding and creating achievable goals. Even though the three are often used interchangeably, they are different tools.

Policies

A policy consists of broad, overarching guidelines that list ideas that form the basis for making decisions. It’s best to think of policies as the “why” behind a company and its stakeholder’s actions.

They inform employees on what can and cannot be done so that all their actions are in the best interest of the organization’s overall goals.

In essence, a policy creates a theoretical foundation for any ensuing efforts. It gives greater weight to an organization’s vision, mission statement, and business strategy. Even so, since a policy is more vision-oriented, it leaves room for interpretation.

Coca-Cola’s social media policy is a great example of a policy done right. It clearly outlines roles and responsibilities for all classes of stakeholders involved. The policy is clear on what people posting on behalf of Coca-Cola need to observe.

Processes

Processes are the “what” part of the equation. They are a high-level map of how the organization will achieve what it wants to accomplish. A process can be thought of as the first instance of an action plan.

A process goes deeper into the steps that will need to be taken, breaks down the entire journey from start to finish into smaller goals, outlines all stakeholder responsibilities, and allocates resources. The objective of having processes is to have a set of practices that can enhance productivity through repetition.

Processes are often depicted as flowcharts with various boxes and shapes depicting action items. Here’s an example of the creative process used to create a website.

Procedures

Procedures put steps into the action items of a process and answer “how” they will be done.

Procedures come as step-by-step instructions or checklists that can be followed to complete tasks.

Of the three, procedures are obviously the most actionable. They provide clear instructions and help managers keep track of how each task is progressing and make changes when necessary.

Here’s an example of a procedure as laid out by Google on how to post a blog on Blogger.

So essentially, a policy consists of processes, and processes have procedures. A good action plan must use all three in order to be successful.

That being said, action plans also have other cogs that need to turn in the right order too. In the sections below, we detail how to go about putting together a good action plan that gets things done.

Chapter 2: Creating a SMART Action Plan

Creating a SMART Action Plan

Merely writing an action plan won’t help you get good results. Since we’re dealing with human motivation, your action plan will need to take several important elements into account.

First, let’s start with industry best practices. The SMART framework is a well-tested method for creating actionable plans. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Specific

Well-defined goals have a lot better chance of success than a vague, nebulous one. A specific goal is one that answers the five Ws, which are:

  1. Who all will be involved?
  2. What needs to be done?
  3. Where will the activities take place?
  4. When can the goal be realistically achieved?
  5. Why do we need to do this?

For example, “We will double our profits in a year or so” is a vague goal. Instead, “We can increase production by 20% in four months thanks to the profits from our new product, so we can realistically target a 10% increase in revenue by the year-end” is more specific and, hence, attainable.

Measurable

What gets measured, gets improved. Before you distribute tasks, you need to ensure you can track the actions from start to finish.

Key performance indicators, or KPIs, can be used here; however, deciding on which ones are relevant is an art in itself. (Check out our article on how to measure metrics for more on this.)

For example, let’s say your company offers an online collaboration service with a subscription model. A new feature that allows users to instantly integrate their subscription with 200 other apps is rolled out.

You wish to understand how the new addition will impact customer acquisition. In this case, you might consider focusing on KPIs like customer lifetime value and customer acquisition cost.

Attainable

While seemingly obvious, setting achievable goals can quickly turn into a challenge for a couple of reasons. First, people often overestimate their capabilities while underestimating the challenges they will be facing.

This is also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that demonstrates how low-achievers often inflate their self-appraisal, while high-achievers usually underestimate themselves.

You can use self-assessment surveys and tools to establish baseline performance indicators to gain a better understanding of each of your team member’s capabilities here.

Next, it’s hard, if not impossible, to take all that may happen into account. This is why good action plans leave room for unforeseen situations.

Realistic

While pushing your team to perform their best is commendable, your efforts shouldn’t lead to burnouts and missteps either. Overburdening teams is one of the main reasons action plans fail, after all.

Consider understanding your organization’s success at reaching its past goals to create realistic objectives. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have we achieved similar goals before?
  2. If so, how long did it take?
  3. How can we build on the success of our previous plans?

For example, you notice that 60% of your salespeople fail to achieve their quotas. Since this constitutes the majority of your team, the problem might be in the goals that have been set for them.

Consequently, you revise your sales strategy by lowering overall quota limits and focusing on training your team to increase overall performance.

Timely

Finally, your timeline should reflect your organization’s true capabilities rather than a desired state. Since the time it takes to complete tasks depends heavily on worker capabilities and motivation, it’s a good idea to involve everyone in setting deadlines.

One way to create achievable goals is to use different internal and external timelines. The internal timeline can be set a few days or weeks shorter than the external one to ensure tasks are always completed on time. A shorter internal timeline will compensate for delays and hurdles, ensuring your project is always completed on time.

This video is a great summary of SMART Goals:

Additionally, you can also use the SCHEMES mnemonic to understand and assign resources to your action plan. SCHEMES stands for:

  • Space
  • Cash
  • Helpers
  • Equipment
  • Materials
  • Expertise
  • Systems

Depending on the kind of action plan you’re working on, you may need to prioritize certain attributes over others. For instance, if you’re putting together an action plan to make reporting easier for everyone, then you may only need to focus on helpers, expertise, and systems.

Chapter 3: 5 Steps for Creating an Action Plan

5 Steps for Creating an Action Plan

Action plans exist to facilitate smooth execution of business operations. They must have well-defined parameters, start and end points. An action plan also prioritizes transparency, visibility, and is trackable. Here are five steps you need to follow in order to create your first action plan.

Step 1: Establish Your Action Plan’s Start and Finish Points

An action plan can also be thought of as a response strategy. You are essentially outlining tasks that need to be done in order to achieve a goal.

Since every endeavor starts with a stimulus, consider asking yourself what will trigger the action and what the desired outcome must be. Be very specific here. Different versions of similar triggers can have tailored outcomes.

Start with what might serve as viable triggers. A trigger is any event that requires your organization’s attention. A service request, approval, customer complaint, or review request from another department can all serve as potential triggers for action.

Each trigger must lead to a certain set of desired goals as well. What ends you wish to achieve will ultimately dictate what information, people, and systems you will need to use.

Action Plan Example

For example, let’s say your marketing department is tasked with coming up with a new social media campaign to increase the brand’s Facebook followers by the CEO. Here, the request itself is the trigger, and the increase in followers is the finish point, or goal.

Step 2: Identify the Components of Your Action Plan

The components here refer to resources, people, work, and information required to achieve a desired result.

  • Resources: Physical materials, tools, finances, and creatives that your team will need in order to complete their task(s).
  • People: All the people who will be directly and indirectly involved in the action plan. Be sure to include people who may affect the outcome even though they aren’t contributing productively.
  • Information: Data, knowledge, and documents that the people involved in the action plan will require in order to complete their tasks.
  • Work: Action steps that will need to be taken to keep the workflow moving forward.

Action Plan Example

Building on the example from step one, the marketing team that’s tasked with coming up with a social media campaign will require the following:

  • Resources:A budget, analytics tools, photos, and maybe a swipe files of previously used ad creatives.
  • People: Team members who specialize in social media marketing, content creation, and graphic design.
  • Information: Training, handouts, procedures and social media policies they need to follow.
  • Work: Action steps each person involved will need to take to complete their tasks and achieve the goal.

Step 3: Prioritize Action Steps into a Process

Now that we know what your action plan will accomplish and what it will take to get there, it’s time to put everything together. Start by listing all the action steps along with all the resources, people, and information they will require.

Consider using previous processes that have proven successful in the past. A workflow diagram can prove invaluable here to help you visualize all the steps involved in creating your action plan.

Action Plan Example

Let’s continue the example from above. The team has secured all the resources, people, information it needs, and has a good idea of the actions needed. It can start by identifying the roles and responsibilities for everyone involved.

Next, the team will try to understand its target audience. It can use marketing intelligence and analytics tools to find out who its buyers are and can make buyer personas for them.

Based on information from the marketing tools and past campaigns, the team will then create a set of ad collaterals, both for the company page and the sponsored ad network.

The most promising ads can be run through A/B testing to find which ones work best. Based on the results, the best performing creatives and campaigns can be run until company goals are achieved. Alternatively, the team may need to refine promising creatives to get better results within its limited budget and timeframe.

Step 4: Create Procedures for Every Person Involved in the Action Plan

So far, we have a good idea of what needs to be done and how we can do it. But this in itself doesn’t mean that the plan is actionable since the people involved don’t have a list of steps they can follow to carry out their day-to-day tasks.

Each step of your process will need its own set of procedures, preferably in the form of checklists that can be distributed to your team members. Not only will this help them gain greater clarity over what needs to be done, but will help the managers track each task too.

Action Plan Example

Our social media team, from the example above, has a plan in place. Since it’s attempting a Facebook ad, the team’s ad manager will need to follow this procedure as laid out by Facebook:

Step 5: Review and Refine Your Action Plan

Chances are your first few attempts aren’t going to get you the desired results. Your team’s efforts may fall short, or previously hidden problems/inefficiencies may reveal themselves.

It’s always a good idea to think of your action plans as perpetual beta entities which are constantly in a state of refinement.

You can use some of the tools that we will discuss next to capture valuable insights in your action plan, automate repetitive tasks, identify redundancies, and track overall progress with the help of dashboards.

Chapter 4: Tips to Write a Compelling Action Plan

 Tips to Write a Compelling Action Plan

So far we’ve discussed the overt, objective properties of an action plan. These will apply to everyone and form your plan’s broad foundation.

But let’s not forget that your plan’s success depends on how well your team members can commit to it. There are several subtler elements that your plan must take into account to succeed.

Keep the following things in mind when crafting your action plan.

Streamline Your Tech Stack

Any action plan implemented today will most likely require software tools to implement properly. However, many companies make the mistake of having a large tech stack consisting of multiple productivity tools, often because each tool has feature sets that are relevant to certain projects.

Surveys point to an increasing number of apps that companies of all sizes are using today. Blissfully, which manages SaaS software integrations for SMBs, reported that most of their clients use anywhere from 40 to 203 apps in their IT environment.

While useful, having more apps than you need can also spread your team and your resources thin. App bloat and overload is not only taking up space on company hard-drives, but also making employees less productive.

A survey of 2,000 knowledge employees found that the average worker was using 35 apps, and 31% reported losing their train of thought while navigating between apps.

Consider narrowing down your tech stack to a select few apps only. Each department is likely to be using their own set of apps to help them do their job. Oftentimes, apps will have overlapping features, making others in a tech stack redundant.

Apps can also be integrated which helps with pulling required information from one app to another without the user needing to switch between them.

Create Alerts for Deadlines, Projects, and Errors

The great thing about productivity apps is that they allow for greater clarity and control over all actions. Say a particular checklist isn’t complete by the end of day. Or your team is coming close to the assigned deadline. Alerts can be issued to all involved so that they may know what they need to prioritize.

Alerts and notifications do need to be handled with care, though. They can be immensely distracting if sent at the wrong time or repeated too many times. Given it can take a person up to 25 minutes to reclaim their focus after being distracted, it’s best to send alerts only when something important needs to be done.

Always Leave Room for Missed Deadlines

Writer’s block, workplace conflicts, confusing instructions, workers waiting for information from someone else, and natural disasters can all cause your team to miss their deadlines. Let’s face it though—we don’t factor in any of these elements when we create action plans.

Most calculations look something like this:

We have five people working eight hours a day, which gives us 40 work hours per day. Our current project is similar to the one we worked on last year that took around 200 hours. So, we’ll use 200 as our baseline, but we’ll throw in 10 extra hours, just in case. We can reasonably expect this project to finish in a little over five working days.

Notice that this entire line of thought, as realistic and probable as it was, didn’t factor in all the things that come with working in a dynamic work environment.

Keep in mind, though, that work expands to fill the amount of time allocated to it. This is primarily why we wait until the last minute to complete an important task, or even manage to miss deadlines that are way into the future.

One way to counter this problem is to have different sets of deadlines: internal ones employees follow, and external deadlines given to different stakeholders. So if the team from the above example has been given five days to finish the project, the shareholders or customers may be told it will take 10 days to finish the task.

Chapter 5: How to Gain Stakeholder Buy-in for Your Action Plans

How to Gain Stakeholder Buy-in for Your Action Plans

The success of your action plan depends entirely on how well it can tap into your team’s innate desire to see it through. Stakeholder involvement and management is therefore going to be key here.

The fundamental premise of stakeholder management is that people have vested interests in whatever they commit themselves to. By tapping into their interests, you can greatly increase the chances of your project’s success.

Identify All Stakeholders

A stakeholder is anyone who is involved in the project, can influence its outcome, or will be affected by it. Depending on the scope of your project, you may have very few or quite a large number of stakeholders.

Some stakeholders you can have are:

  1. The team and/or department committed to the action plan.
  2. Managers overseeing the team.
  3. People, teams, or departments affected by the action plan.
  4. Suppliers.
  5. Customers.
  6. People who stand to gain from the success or failure of the action plan.
  7. People who stand to lose from the action plan.
  8. Creditors/investors.
  9. Shareholders.

Notice the list has people who can be negatively affected by your project’s outcome. Do take note of them as well since they can detract from your team members’ efforts.

Use the Power-Interest Grid to Analyze Stakeholder Influence

The power-interest matrix is a tool for understanding how much people can influence a project. Dividing people into four archetypes based on interest and power can help you determine who you need to communicate with and how much information you need to give them.

Promoters: People who are directly involved in your action plan, and have a vested interest in its success. A promoter will be the most vocal supporter of your plan and should be both managed and consulted closely.

Latents: A latent may not be directly affected by a proposed action plan, but can directly affect its implementation. Your strategy should ensure they are kept informed and satisfied.

Apathetics: People who are neither affected by nor care about the plan. However, they may be curious about your action plan, so it’s best to monitor them closely.

Defenders: These are people who want to have a say, but aren’t very influential. Since they may become negative influencers if ignored, you should consider keeping them well informed throughout your action plan’s implementation.

Develop stakeholder personas to better understand each of the four archetypes. You can also use a stakeholder mapping tool to help you with this process. (We’ll discuss one of them in chapter seven.)

List Out Your Stakeholder Interest Through Promoters

Think of promoters as your organization’s internal influencers. They are most likely to support you in executing your action plan and may help sell its benefits to other stakeholders.

Influencers needn’t be the best-performing employees. Their defining characteristic is their relationships with other workers. People will usually listen to and trust them. Bear in mind though that people who stand to lose from any reformatory measures can be influencers too.

Internal influencers almost always have their ears to the ground. They know how their peers feel and often have them in their confidence. You can use their insights to craft a better messaging strategy.

Your promoters can also uncover advantages, drawbacks, and insights into your action plan that you may not have taken into account. Since they are the company confidants, they can help you survey other employees for more information to create a better plan.

Ask All Stakeholders for Inputs Into Your Action Plan

Ideally, you should have a different communication plan for speaking to each of the four classes of stakeholders. The above-mentioned grid can be used to prioritize whose opinions will carry greater weight in your plan.

You can use the power-interest matrix to determine each stakeholder’s level of influence on your action plan. So, promoters and latents can have a higher say relative to defenders and apathetics. That being said, do not ignore the latter two groups and take any suggestions that may add value to your goal.

While seemingly aloof or even powerless, apathetics and defenders can become negative influencers if ignored. At the very least, you should have a robust messaging strategy to help both groups understand the significance of your action plan to secure their support.

Chapter 6: Using Pareto Analysis to Prioritize Action Planning

Using Pareto Analysis to Prioritize Action Planning

Possibly the hardest part of coming up with an action plan is to figure out which problems to focus on, especially if your plan will affect multiple stakeholders. Everyone involved is going to think their issues are the most significant and may try to divert company resources to solve them first.

Fortunately, there are tools you can use to identify the most pressing issues you need to focus on first. Pareto analysis has been around since the early 1900s when Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of people.

In 1937, Joseph Juran, a Romanian American engineer and management consultant, discovered Pareto’s research and extended it to business research. He noticed overlapping patterns in quality control and Pareto’s 80-20 rule.

Today, Pareto analysis has evolved into a statistical tool that helps managers identify the top 20% of issues that they need to focus on. The tool is particularly useful for creating a focused action plan thanks to its ability to identify the root cause of persisting errors and the cumulative impact of problems.

How to Conduct a Pareto Analysis

A Pareto analysis uses a simple bar graph to represent problems in descending order of magnitude.

  1. The causes are recorded along the X axis. Start by jotting down each error along with the number of times it occurred or its severity. Now plot each error along the X axis in descending order of severity/occurrence.
  1. Now, calculate the cumulative count percentage for each problem using the formula: (Individual case count / Total cause count) times 100.
  1. Create a secondary Y axis on the right side of the table with percentage values in descending order.
  1. Next, plot the cumulative count percentage for each cause on the graph and connect them with a line.
  1. Finally, draw a line running parallel to the X axis at the 80% point. The problems on the left side of the line are the ones you need to focus on.

The Pareto method can be used to either identify problems that you need to create action plans for or identify issues that can potentially become a roadblock to your plans. Additionally, you can use a Pareto chart to create better key performance indicators for your team.

Chapter 7: Tools to Help You Create and Implement Your Action Plans

Tools to Help You Create and Implement Your Action Plans

Managers are accustomed to using handouts, whiteboard presentations, graphs and Microsoft Excel sheets to keep track of their team’s progress. As useful as these tools have been, they have their limitations.

Being static: it’s hard to keep track of things when different people have checklists that rely on one another. Updating or triggering tasks on another workflow when one is finished becomes a challenge.

Static tools are limited in their availability as well. Even updating spreadsheets can be a challenge when you have different people working on the same project from different locations.

Fortunately, cloud-based SaaS tools make quick work of issuing instructions and keeping track of your action plan. Here are five tools that can help you keep track of your action plan.

SweetProcess

SweetProcess - Action Plan Software

Features: Makes actionable process documentation easy, turns processes, procedures and policies into checklists

Price: $99/month for up to 20 members plus $5/month for every additional user

Trial version: 14 days

As stated earlier, action plans can only work when they are directed via policies, processes, and procedures. Each of the three elements forms the philosophical, theoretical, and actionable part of a plan that allows people to understand why they need to do something and how to go about completing the task.

The problem with traditional, static methods of creating and issuing process-based plans is that they are hard to track, making coordination a problem. As a process-based tool, SweetProcess is perfect for managers looking to create, issue, and track action plans.

The key advantage with SweetProcess is that you can turn your policies, processes, and procedures into trackable checklists that can be assigned to team members. Workers only need to follow the checklist, checking off tasks as they are completed.

The user interface itself is fairly minimalistic and straightforward. You have tabs for documents, processes, procedures and tasks on top, and users can only see those that are assigned to them when they log in. The tasks tab is particularly useful as it shows impending work that the user needs to complete as soon as possible.

SweetProcess comes with a free 14-day full-feature trial, so give it a shot.

Lucidspark

Lucidspark

Features: Powerful stakeholder identification, mapping, engagement, and management suite, links stakeholders with engagement plans, communication can be tailored to stakeholder’s preferences.

Price: Starts at $7.95 for a single user, $9 per user for team subscription, and custom pricing for enterprise version

Free version: Yes

Lucidspark is a collaborative digital whiteboard, and stakeholder mapping is one of its features. Think of it as a regular office whiteboard that can be shared online but with more visualizing and communications capabilities.

If you have a sizable team, or a large number of people your action plan will affect, then the stakeholder management suite provided by Lucidspark may be just the tool you’re looking for.

The tool is extremely simple to use but has powerful mapping capabilities that can help you determine the level of influence and interest each party has in your action plan.

You can start with a basic template or create your own map from scratch.

Like most cloud-based productivity tools, Lucidspark allows for collaboration between users on different devices and operating systems, so your entire team can provide input for your stakeholder map.

You can also use Lucidspark’s native whiteboard features like sticky notes, images, freehand drawing, and magic shapes to add some life into your map.

KPI Fire

KPI Fire

Features: An appealing car dashboard–like interface that delivers performance metrics and issues alerts for corrective actions

Price: Customized pricing available upon request

Free demo: Yes (available on request)

A Pareto analysis can help you identify and prioritize KPIs (key performance indicators) that your action plan will need to address. With KPI Fire, your team executives can easily measure performance across the board from a simple, intuitive dashboard.

KPI Fire makes it extremely easy to create unified measurement systems that can track all departments involved in an action plan. The software has a great scoring system that lets you see how your KPIs are evolving over time.

Managers can decide the frequency of tracking for each KPI and the tool can be programmed to issue alerts if certain indicators show progress is falling behind. Being a strategy execution software, KPI Fire is a must-have for any organization serious about action planning.

Asana

Asana

Features: Multiple templates for action and project planning, powerful integration and collaboration features, workload visualization, easy Gantt chart creation

Price: $10.99 per user per month for the premium version, $24.99 per user per month for the business version

Free version: Yes

Asana needs little introduction, being one of the most popular cloud-based productivity tools out there. But besides regular project management and collaboration features, Asana is also an ideal tool for creating and managing action plans.

In fact, the software has a plethora of templates for a number of different kinds of projects that you can use to get started. Additionally, Asana emphasizes creating well-defined action items for each project. They even have a blog post on how to create clear action items and plans.

Work in Asana is divided into projects, tasks, and subtasks. You have multiple templates for each of the three to start with. Projects can be scheduled using the inbuilt Gantt charts, and tasks can be easily assigned to each team member.

Asana only allows you to assign a task to one person. Their reasoning is that this helps delineate responsibilities easier. If you need to add more people to a task, then you will need to add sub-tasks to it.

Asana has a free version you can try, and given its stellar reputation it’s certainly worth a swing.

Chapter 8: Why SweetProcess is Ideal for Creating and Managing Action Plans

Why SweetProcess is Ideal for Creating and Managing Action Plans

If there’s one thing that we at SweetProcess have seen over and over again, it’s the difference clarity of thought can bring when everyone knows exactly what they need to do.

The older productivity structures of policies, processes and procedures remain very effective but have persisting drawbacks that in the fast-paced business world are proving to be quite a disadvantage.

The challenge is mostly one of implementation, however, not planning. Even today, businesses continue to use manual operations, spreadsheets and paper checklists for processes that can be automated using cloud-based systems.

Manual methods require a considerable amount of time and money to implement, all of which can be solved through cloud-based collaboration and communication systems.

Here’s how SweetProcess can help you overcome three common challenges to implementing action plans:

Automating Manual Processes

Since processes have multiple procedures, several paper checklists need to be issued in a manual system, each related to the other.

Employees have to fill them out by hand, while managers have to collect and collate all the information into one database for analysis, both of which are time-consuming and tedious. If a checklist has errors, it needs to be re-evaluated by the manager, as will all the related documentation.

SweetProcess can automate most processes, and checklists can be issued digitally. Your team needn’t waste time filling out forms, checking off boxes, and submitting completed checklists to managers. Any changes to a checklist are instantly visible throughout your team’s network.

Enhancing Organization-wide Collaboration

With a manual system, you can end up with multiple document versions, with different people following different checklists. This makes collaboration exceedingly difficult, as there’s always the danger someone is following an older version.

Manual systems can easily result in siloed functions, hindering cross-department collaboration. Since different teams can have their own processes, integrating them all into one cohesive whole using nothing but spreadsheets and paper checklists is hard, to say the least.

Communication is easily the biggest issue in a traditional, manual setup. Email, phone calls, and in-person meetings are simply not good enough here. There’s just too much scope for confusion and miscommunication when every person is an island.

Since SweetProcess allows you to collect all your organizational and institutional knowledge under one header, all team members have access to authorized documents.

People can comment and exchange thoughts on processes within the documents and checklists removing the need for additional email or IM communication. Furthermore, checklists can be edited by authorized users and all changes are instantly recorded.

Increasing Data Integrity and Visibility

With manual productivity systems, managers have to spend a considerable amount of time collating and organizing all the feedback they receive from their employees.

Trying to find relevant information, especially on tight deadlines, can be a significant challenge for employees and managers alike, as they often have to scour through email threads to find a document.

Neither of these are issues when you use SweetProcess. All your organizational activity is clearly visible on your dashboard, and each user can quickly access their to-do lists from the top menu.

Hundreds of companies have used SweetProcess to turn their plans into a reality, and with a good strategy, you can too. The following chapter showcases how three companies used SweetProcess to address the unique challenges of bringing their own action plans to life.

The best way to see how easy SweetProcess can make action planning and execution a breeze is to try it for yourself. We offer a 14-day free trial with all the features of a regular subscription, so go ahead and give it a shot!

Chapter 9: Three Action Plan Case Studies

Three Action Plan Case Studies

No two companies will face the same set of challenges when coming up with an action plan.

At SweetProcess, we afford the flexibility and robustness to accomodate the needs of companies in many industries, as attested by the many success stories and case studies we are proud to share.

Let’s dive into three different ways companies have harnessed SweetProcess to develop their action plans:

How Onogo Created an Action Plan for Growth

Onogo

Established in 2008, Onogo is a competitive e-commerce company offering a wide range of consumer products. It leverages a variety of marketing channels, including Amazon, on which it is one of the top 1,000 global sellers.

But with growth comes new challenges. Rising demand and new competition meant that Onogo had to innovate to keep up with the times. The company came to a crossroads when they were ready to hire several new employees and train them on Onogo’s processes and procedures.

Florinela Serban, head of operations at Onogo, understood the need for a better operational structure with process documentation and a central repository for all company knowledge. Florinela was well aware of the tools that were available, but also knew their drawbacks.

“I didn’t want to just start documenting procedures as Google Doc documents or creating charts, and then they would just be left in a drawer and nobody would look at them,” said Florinela. Of the three process documentation suites out there, she went with SweetProcess, finding it to offer best in class features.

With SweetProcess, Florinela could create a central repository of all of Onogo’s process knowledge. New hires were able to learn the ropes faster, and their sales team’s performance improved dramatically.

You don’t have to do it all yourself.

Action planning requires robust support structures that can help all stakeholders perform efficiently and effectively. By documenting process knowledge and making it available to people who needed it wherever they were, Florinela and her team were able to turn their growth plans into reality.

Why Operational Standards Are Critical to Action Planning

Spark Marketer

Spark Marketer was already a sought-after marketing solutions provider for small and medium businesses, particularly those in the home services space. The company specializes in providing highly tailored solutions for its clients, capitalizing on their strengths to get them the maximum exposure possible.

Customization, however, is not without its challenges. Each client requires their own approach leading to a need to deploy non-standard solutions, often by the same team. This results in pockets of tribal knowledge throughout the company that employees had to fall back on. As a result, managers had no standards to measure work.

Not only was their non-standard work culture affecting employee performance, but it was also based on gut feelings and assumptions. Says Carter Harkins, co-founder of Spark Marketer, “There’s this constant feeling like you’re being drawn back into the daily task–level stuff to keep things running, so that’s what keeps you up at night. There’s a lack of confidence in the structures of your business to support growth.”

A business consultant introduced Carter and his associates to standard operating procedures, which helped them iron out loopholes in their service model. Next they started documenting their processes in Google Docs.

As the company grew, a shared Google Drive became insufficient. Employees were spending far too much time finding the right document, copy-pasting information from one location to another, and organizing everything, costing the company time.

With SweetProcess, Carter and his team were able to iron out such issues. Documentation became easier as all employees could become directly involved in creating and editing process-based information.

As all processes and procedures can be presented as checklists, employees and managers alike could track the progress of each task, something that couldn’t be done using Google Docs.

Training new hires became easier as they only needed access to the company’s training documents. As the trainees complete each task, their managers are alerted to their progress.

Streamlining business operations saves time.

Having well-defined standards to measure performance means all stakeholders know exactly what action to take and when, which allows to dedicate more attention to scaling and growth.

Streamlining Business Processes Helps Companies Scale Better

Streamlining Business Processes Helps Companies Scale Better – Emma Mills, owner of MiPA
Emma Mills, owner of MiPA

As UK’s number one–rated virtual personal assistant service, MiPA is dedicated to helping its clients save time by automating repetitive, low-value tasks.

The company handles over 2,000 calls for its clients every day, and given the unique needs of each of its clients, needed specific processes for each of them. They started with Dropbox and Google Docs as their process documenting strategy, but it proved to be limiting.

With SweetProcess, MiPA automated many of its processes, including onboarding new employees, which was a challenging process as their services were client-specific. A new recruit only needs access to relevant policy, process, and training documentation, and they can sign-off as they complete each step.

Additionally, all of MiPA’s internal processes have been automated to a great extent as well. Managers can easily see which processes and procedures are completed, when they were worked on, and what suggestions others are making on improving them.

Even though MiPA was already on top of its game, with SweetProcess the company has managed to get rid of many bottlenecks that came with manual processes. The company is continuously scaling its operations and has an action plan to acquire 20 new clients every month.

Automation helps.

In MiPA’s case, both the company and its clients managed to scale their operations because repetitive tasks were taken off the team’s to-do lists.

Parting Thoughts

Being dedicated to helping companies implement their processes, we’ve seen quite a number of reasons why action plans work and why users sometimes struggle to use them effectively. 

The plans that work almost always have a few things in common. They are based on realistic expectations, prioritize tracking, and democratize input from all stakeholders who also have sufficient visibility into how their actions are helping the company achieve its goals.

Furthermore, the more low-level processes are automated, the better a team is able to perform. Survey after survey demonstrates the massive implications of overworking, burnout, and distractions.

By putting as many processes on autopilot as possible, your team can free up their time to focus on the core 20% of issues affecting your business.

Process automation is precisely what SweetProcess is all about. Our clients are often surprised when they find out how much of their business they can put on autopilot! Sign up for our 14-day free trial to see it for yourself.

Don’t know where to start? Your team is your most valuable resource, and their investment in your action plan will dictate whether it succeeds or fails.

We’ve put together a Stakeholder Engagement Analysis Tool to better help you understand the involvement of all the people who will be involved in, and be affected by, an action plan.

The document covers:

  • What a stakeholder engagement matrix is.
  • Questions you need to ask to use the matrix.
  • A working example of how to implement the engagement matrix.
Action Plan - Stakeholder Analysis Tool

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