6.10 Action plans
22. Does the action plan make the proposal concrete in terms of realistic time scales and budgets and identification of relevant milestones?
A reasonably detailed action plan has four distinct functions in your proposal:
it demonstrates that the case has been thought through in some detail, with all the attendant costs taken into account.
it demonstrates practical feasibility if your audience can see reasonable timescales and resources are allocated to the various activities.
it shows the scope and nature of what is involved in making your proposal a reality, and concentrates minds on the practical issues that need to be grappled with if the project is to be successful.
it shows the points at which progress can be reviewed and decisions about continuation or otherwise of the project made.
The action plan should show a breakdown of the activities needed, the time frame over which they will take place, and when key resources are required. A Gantt chart is a useful way to present the action plan.
Building in appropriate progress milestones is essential. This shows your audience when the progress of the project can be reviewed, and where future decisions about the project will be needed. A ‘stage-gate’ approach involves formal evaluation and ‘go/no-go’ decisions after each main stage of a project. This is attractive to organisations because it allows poorly performing projects to be axed rather than to continue to consume resources unchecked. However, major reviews can be very disruptive and if they take place at the ‘wrong’ time could lead to projects that ultimately might have proved successful being stopped because of apparent lack of progress or failure to meet interim performance targets. All projects need periodic checks on progress, so that remedial action can be taken to address problems. The nature and timing of major ‘stop/go’ type reviews, however, need to be planned with caution.
Performance evaluation of your new/modified operation should be included in your action plan for completeness, and to make concrete the improvements that can be expected. Performance measurement should be designed to track the benefits you have identified as the raison d'etre of your proposal: improved productivity, reduced costs, improved customer satisfaction, for example.