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business career entrepreneur success

Action Plans

Developing targeted action plans

Without careful action planning, the strategies you’d like to implement in your organization are unlikely to become reality. So when coordinating the implementation phase of a business plan, the first step is to develop targeted action plans. 

An action plan is a series of tasks that need to be completed in order to accomplish a particular objective. Action plans typically contain information on a number of different areas.

  • roles and responsibilities — It’s important to make sure that your team members understand their individual roles and responsibilities in the implementation process. They need to know exactly what’s expected of them and what they’re required to do.
  • expected results — A typical action plan clearly states the goals and objectives the plan aims to achieve. It also describes the expected results — or outcomes.
  • specific action steps — It’s important to break the work involved in your action plan down into specific action steps or activities. When you’ve listed the necessary activities, you can then sequence them in a logical order.
  • schedules — It helps to provide detailed schedules for each project and subproject. Schedules show how long each activity is expected to take — and when it should take place.
  • resource requirements — An action plan should set out the resources you need to successfully implement your strategies and ideas. The main resources you need to carry out an action plan are people, time, space, and equipment.

Action steps

You can follow seven steps to help you create the main sections of an action plan. First, clarify the outcomes you want to achieve. For each outcome, list the activities necessary to achieve it. Then put the activities in order. 

The fourth step is to assign responsibilities for completing each activity among your employees. Then determine the resources you need to implement your plan. And determine the likely costs of implementing it. Finally, create a schedule showing the timelines involved.

Clarifying outcomes and listing activities

In the first step, you clarify the outcomes you want to achieve. When doing this, you describe the expected results of the various activities in your plan.

The second step to take when creating an action plan is to list the activities necessary to achieve each outcome. It’s a good idea to get the relevant teams involved in brainstorming the activities. Each activity should be clearly written, to avoid confusion and misinterpretation later.

Ordering activities and assigning responsibility

The third step is to put the activities in a logical order, so you tackle them in the correct sequence. In this example, the first activity undertaken should be to identify basic user requirements. Then you can design an initial prototype. After that, you review it and provide feedback on any additions or changes that are necessary. The final activity is to revise and enhance the prototype.

When creating an action plan, the fourth step is to assign responsibilities for completing each activity among your team members. Unless you specifically assign responsibility for carrying out a task, it probably won’t get done. So your action plan should make it clear who has responsibility — and authority — for ensuring that each activity is completed. You should also identify the individuals, groups, or units who are involved in carrying out each activity.

Determining resources, costs, and the schedule

The fifth step is to determine the resources needed. It’s crucial to factor in enough people and support services from the outset to implement your action plan effectively. Inadequate resources can cause your plan to fall behind schedule — or to fail. But almost any problem can be solved with adequate resources.

The sixth step is to determine the specific costs required to implement your action plan. To work this out, you need to carefully examine each activity in your plan.

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business career entrepreneur success

Business Plan Stages

Many managers are involved in creating business plans in their organizations. A business plan outlines a set of business goals and how those goals can be achieved. Once a business plan has been created and communicated, it needs to be implemented. It also needs to be continuously reviewed and controlled to ensure it’s being carried out effectively.

The planning, implementation, and subsequent control phases of a business plan shouldn’t be regarded as separate functions that operate independently. Instead they should be integrated into the organisation’s overall activities and viewed as part of a continuous strategic process.

From Planning to Implementation to Control

The planning stage is the first part of the process. At this stage, you develop your business plan. The plan should clearly state what needs to be accomplished. It should also provide general information about how this should be done.

Implementation is the next stage of the process. At this stage, you put the plan into action. This involves devising and managing action plans and establishing accountability among employees. You also need to ensure resources are available and aligned with the plan’s goals and objectives in order to successfully realize the plan.

No matter how well a plan is constructed, it needs to be reviewed from time to time. At the third stage of the process — the control stage — you assess how effectively the plan is being implemented. This allows you to measure the performance of employees and modify and enhance your action plan if necessary.

When you establish a direct link from planning to implementation to control, you’ll be able to implement your business plan more successfully.

Implementing a Business Plan Effectively

As a manager, you’ll be able to gain real benefits by implementing your business plans successfully. For one thing, you’ll be able to introduce your strategies and ideas smoothly, causing a minimum amount of disruption to your employees. Your team can then focus on making the necessary changes and on reconciling new and emerging strategies with existing ones.

By implementing a business plan effectively, you overcome the reasons why many plans fail. Typical reasons include employee resistance due to pessimism, skepticism, or a general unwillingness to do things differently. Inadequate resources, IT constraints, and poor communication are other reasons why plans fail.

When you successfully implement an idea or strategy, it’s likely that you’ll gain credibility among your employees.

Successfully implementing a business plan may also make you feel more confident as a manager. And your organization as a whole can benefit too. Through the implementation process, employees will have acquired more knowledge and experience, meaning the company is better positioned to adapt to future changes.

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Selecting Initiatives that are Strategically Executable

The critical aspects of strategy

Strategy development is an essential aspect of execution. There are two aspects of the strategy that can have an effect on its execution: the kind of strategy, and how it is translated into plans.

There are four critical characteristics of a strategy that leads to successful execution:

  • planned — A realistic, workable strategy begins with good planning. Before you make any major move, evaluate the current situation and possible consequences. Poor planning can significantly affect execution. Because the goal of business strategy is always to gain competitive advantage, your strategy should be planned to gain an understanding of the industry and competitors, and to develop capabilities that increase your competitive edge.
  • integrated — Corporate and business strategies must be integrated if your strategy is to be executed well. The strategies must support each other.
  • measurable — For a business strategy to be executed well, it needs measurable objectives. Everyone involved should know what metrics will be used to measure strategic performance. You should have a plan in place that can be used to assess your progress with regard to short- and long-term goals.
  • supportable — To be successful, the business strategy must be supportable. Trying to make changes that are too big in too short a time could make demands on the organization’s skills, resources, and capabilities that can’t be supported. If you ignore these demands, you’re unlikely to be able to execute the strategy effectively.

Selecting strategic initiatives

The second step in creating strategy that executes is to develop the strategy. This involves four steps:

  • select strategic initiatives based on themes
  • assign accountability to initiatives
  • translate initiatives into strategic targets
  • allocate resources to initiatives

The first step in developing a strategy involves actually selecting strategic initiatives. It’s important to evaluate which strategies you should choose to implement, based on the existing situation in your company and the potential consequences. Poor planning can negatively affect many areas of the organization. 

Sound planning and a clear, focused strategy are essential if the company is to reach its goals. That’s where strategic initiatives come in. They’re the short-term actions that guide your company toward achieving its vision. The company screens strategic initiatives and selects them by examining whether they help the company achieve its objectives.

Selecting strategic initiatives involves five steps:

1. examine the strategic objectives that have arisen — During the defining process, you will have formulated strategic objectives in each of the four strategy map perspectives: financial, customer, internal, and learning and growth. The objectives are the continuous improvement activities that link to your strategic themes.

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Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

A SWOT analysis is the identification of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business. Strengths and weaknesses are derived from your internal analysis. Opportunities and threats become apparent during your external analysis.

  • strengths — Strengths are resources and capabilities that provide a competitive advantage. Examples may include patents on products, your brand in the market, your reputation with customers, a low-cost location, good distribution channels, or reliable infrastructure.
  • weaknesses — Weaknesses can be the absence of strengths. For instance, a weakness could be the lack of a patent, a weak brand, a poor reputation, or high operating costs. Also, something may be both a strength and weakness. For example, having a mature business with a large local presence and skilled workforce can also make you slow to adapt to the changing external environment.
  • opportunities — Opportunities are the potential for profit and future growth. Examples include any unfulfilled customer wants or needs, new technological advances, the loosening of regulation, or the removal of barriers to trade.
  • threats — Changes in the external environment can present threats. Possible threats could be a change in consumer taste away from your product or service, new substitute products on the market, new regulations that adversely affect your business, or perhaps increased barriers to trade.

A SWOT analysis should be a simple strategic review that you can do quickly. It’s an important aspect of your business plan in the context of your company’s internal and external environment. You can then present it as a key addition to your business plan.

Conducting a SWOT analysis

You begin your SWOT analysis by listing important opportunities and threats in the context of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. You should also keep in mind the strategic objectives of your business plan. 

For ease of discussion, you can then rank the factors in order of importance and assign a weight or importance score to each factor. Focus on the most relevant factors and present them neatly on a one-page chart.

To maximize competitive advantage, you must put customer needs first. You can do this by being aware of your customers’ needs when conducting a SWOT. To focus on your customer’s needs, determine the relevance of your strengths and weaknesses to meeting their needs.

A strength is only relevant if you can exploit it as an opportunity or use it to overcome potential threats. Conversely, a weakness is only relevant if it’s a threat to the success of your business.

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