Friday, September 18, 2009

Preparing Action Plans with a Task Force

Since no individual can be responsible for all aspects of the Action Planning process, we strongly recommend recruiting individual Task Forces for each of your organization's major opportunities for improvement. Task Forces can be a very effective method for both designing and implementing Action Plans. The goal is for Task Force members to work together as a team over a few months to:

Create an Action Plan, including specific action items designed to address the key opportunities,

Share the plan with all employees at either at the organization as a whole or at their department/site/functional unit,

Work to implement each of the action items, including monitoring the progress on each item, and
Help to assess success for each action item at the end of the process.

The anticipated time commitment from Task Force members is generally about 5 hours per month over a 3-6 month period. Ideally, look for Task Force team members who:

Are able to devote the necessary time to the process.
Possess the skills needed to assist in developing solutions, especially those with special expertise in the areas of concern.
Are highly creative/articulate individuals, who are more likely to come up with "out-of-the-box" solutions.
Are people with high energy and enthusiasm, who tend to get things done and keep others excited.
Have good teamwork skills.
Are able and willing to implement the necessary corrective actions.

Each Task Force should hold regular Action Planning meetings, which should focus on setting goals and deciding on viable action items. Some useful tools and tips for effective goal setting are:

Brainstorming: Encourage diverse ideas and don't censor any suggestions. Record all the ideas given and potential solutions offered, since even the strangest suggestion may represent the "germ" of a worthwhile solution. "Good" ideas are the end product of a process of evolution that usually starts with ideas that are flawed … often seriously. (Idea Generation)

Strategizing: Take the opportunity to "grow" flawed ideas by identifying the positives, including 1 or 2 advantages that are not immediately obvious. At this stage, both wishes and concerns are powerful sources for raising the ceiling on ideas. (Appraisal that Adds Value)

Removing Barriers: Start to tailor and transform the idea to keep the positives while eliminating the flaws. (Tailoring and Transforming) Each Task Force needs to be responsible for producing a written Action Plan that specifically outlines what specific action items will be implement to address the goals agreed to by the Task Force. For this step, each action item needs to include the following:

Completion Target Date - Target dates are dependent upon your best estimate of when the action steps will be completed. They can range from almost immediate for the "quick hits" to very lengthy for more serious issues.

Responsibility - Every action plan should have an "owner," who is accountable for the outcomes and the final results.

Updating - It is essential to regularly update your Action Plans, so that you, your stakeholders and your employees can see the progress being made. Recognize, though, that circumstances may require you to change your time line because of new discoveries or unidentified barriers.

Share Best Practices - Learn from your colleagues on what has worked well or not so well with their Action Plans.