Humans are optimistic beings. 


We all tend to take on too much. 


We have ambitions, plans and exciting ideas. It’s fair to say however that we aren’t always realistic about what we can actually achieve. Sometimes our action planning isn’t realistic.


In those instances, despite our best intentions, we may fall short of our commitments. Certain tasks remain incomplete. While this is frustrating when it happens to us on a personal or individual level, when you are part of a team it can have far reaching consequences. Each strand of work that a team member does, connects with other strands. So when something doesn’t get done, the impact will often be felt elsewhere.


Depending on the size and frequency of the ‘not doing’, the impacts can be huge. People get stressed and overworked. They fall out with each other, teams fall apart. Projects and plans can fail and time and money is wasted. 


So how can you create the best circumstances for your team to actually follow through on those planned actions?


Helene putting paper on a Stickywall


Get people involved in creating the actions in the first place


People who are going to be delivering on the actions are generally best placed to know how long each will take. They’ll understand what resources they need and the barriers that might get in the way. Involve your team members in creating the plan – this will help make the plans realistic and doable. Working collaboratively will also enable you to all see how things link together and the likely impacts one set of actions may have on another. A bit of co-ordination goes a long way!


By including your team members in action planning, consulting with them and asking them to contribute their ideas, you, and they, add meaning to the actions themselves. When there is more meaning attached to the actions, your team will feel responsible for carrying them out. They will care about their successful implementation. Caring about the actions and whether they get done is a good recipe for success.


Be clear on what the actions are and how they link up


Check back in on your actions to see that they speak to your goals, so that you know what each action is for. Knowing what an action leads to is much more motivating that doing something simply because you have been told it’s a good idea. And if you can link this back to the shared sense of direction it will help to solidify those seemingly small actions in view of the bigger picture. 


Ensure the actions are specific enough for the whole team to understand them. This will help foster a feeling of feel a collective ownership. It will also enhance their ability to spot when something hasn’t happened. An action to “share success stories across social media platforms after project completion” makes much more sense than “Share success stories”. It also avoids duplication when some actions may cut across different teams or work-streams.


Add in success indicators so that everyone knows what to expect to see when actions have been completed, if you say you are going to finish creating a set of documents, the indicator may be that you have 3 five page documents.


Create a time line so you know what should be happening when. This could be a broad quarter by quarter plan over a year, or weeks in a quarter. Whatever you choose, make sure it means something and is helpful around the action planning you’ve done. 


Make sure the action plan can be seen by everyone that needs to be doing the actions. Taking on one bit of the action plan is important, but knowing where it fits and what it relates to it will help in getting it done. Personally I like a good plan on a wall, but in the age of hybrid working somewhere in your chosen cloud may do the job better!


Do those check ins!


They are your reference points. Your sign posts.


Don’t side step them even if things are moving along nicely and a quick “how’s it going” elicits a “yeah fine”. Sit down as planned and really ask. Is anything holding things up? Do you still have the right resources? Has something happened that has left the plan slightly less clear? Sometimes, the smallest lack of clarity around the smallest part can become a sticking point.


The check in isn’t the time for you to demand results. It’s the chance to see if you can provide anything to keep things moving – information, support, resources and the opportunity to say when something isn’t quite going to plan.


Be prepared.


Things always change and stuff always crops up so be prepared to make adjustments. If the last few years are anything to go by, shit happens!


Create contingency plans, and be prepared to take a mini side step or a bit of a pivot to keep things going in the event of stumbling blocks. I want to say you need to be agile, but I doubt if you are a gymnast! Let’s just say that staying agile in your mind and approach are key to getting any project over the finish line.


Enable honest communication.


Foster a culture of open and honest communication and trust. If your team feels able to be honest about what they can and can’t do, and they know that they can update you without judgement, you will always be in the know. A team which covers up a problem or doesn’t ask for more resources at the right time, is unlikely to fess up when things go off course. Encourage everyone to communicate key issues with you and anyone else who needs to know. This is vital for delivering results.


This is, of course, easier said than done. A good starting point is creating space for conversations to happen freely, honestly and without judgement.




Action planning and facilitation


If your action planning could do with a little work, let me know. We can work together with your team to lay out clear goals and actions and bring everyone on board.


This doesn’t need to be a whole day session – a good solid action plan can be created in a half day workshop. Time well spent to ensure that everyone feels ready, capable and clear about what needs to be done.


There’s nothing like getting a project, or a financial quarter off to a flying start and knowing that what needs to be done, will be done!

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