Tasks, resources and measures of success
An action plan states what specific action needs to be taken (tasks), who will undertake each task and how (resources), and the immediate or short-term measurable result for each task (measures of success). Table 1.1 shows these different components in an action plan tackling the low level of birth registrations in a community.
|Objective: Build the evidence base to address low birth registration|
|Task||Responsibility||Additional resources||Timescale||Measure of success|
|1. Gather evidence on all birth registrations over the past 5 years||Head of clinic||Records from the local council||May 2014||Data is collected and presented in an accessible format|
|2. Analyse the data||Team of health workers||Staff at district council||August 2014||Clear evidence of the patterns of birth registration is produced|
|3. Undertake research into the barriers preventing mothers registering their babies||Team of health workers supervised by the head of clinic||Community development officers||October 2014||Causes of non-registration are identified|
|4. Produce a report with recommendations for action to remove the barriers||Head of clinic||Funds from district office||Dec 2014||Report is available and ready to be used for the next stage of the process – to implement action to remove the barriers|
What do you notice about the structure and headings used in this action plan?
A number of things can be observed about the structure and headings used in this action plan:
- The objective is clearly stated at the start of the action plan.
- The activities that need to be completed are broken down into a number of separate tasks, four in this case.
- The tasks are listed in a logical order.
- The tasks all start with a word that conveys a sense of action, indicating that something will happen.
- Each task has been assigned to a person and the work has been divided between a number of different people. People are project resources.
- Each person has access to additional specific resources, that will support them in completing the task.
- Each task has a completion date.
- Each task has a specific measure of success, a way of assessing the immediate measurable result.
You can hopefully see that an action plan contains a very significant amount of important information. As described above, it might be helpful to a limited extent for a small project and it can be enormously valuable for medium and large projects.
We will now examine some of these components of an action plan in more detail.
Tasks are the specific actions that, taken together, make up the action plan.
Quite simply, you cannot get anything done unless you have the resources to do it. Resources are the people, materials, money, or other assets that are available to contribute to the delivery of the action plan.
Usually the most important resources are the people who contribute to the delivery of the tasks in the action plan. Usually, it will be useful to identify one key person to take the lead responsibility for each task.
The other resources available to support the responsible person, are sometimes also listed against tasks in the action plan. These can be people, budget, buildings, materials and anything else that can be used to support the completion of the task. Where other resources are included the most significant resources should be listed in the action plan. For example, under the ‘Additional resources’ column in Table 1.1, it is assumed that the district council can provide additional support.
Measures of success
You need to be able to measure whether or not you have been successful in your action plan. You can measure progress by establishing what are called ‘indicators’. Indicators are facts that provide an objective measurement for assessing the state, level or condition of something, usually in an area where there is a desire to see change.
Just as each task in an action plan is a step that contributes to a bigger overall objective, each measure of success is a step towards the achievement of a larger success indicator.
We can illustrate this with another example:
A government official at the Ministry of Health in Kenya wants to improve the situation for vulnerable and marginalised people, including children, so that access to health services for mothers and young children is achieved universally across the country. There are differences in outcomes based on geography, social status and gender. She knows that there are a number of tasks to do, including gathering evidence, communicating this clearly, building support, lobbying other parts of government, making decisions about allocation of resources, involving vulnerable people in the process, and getting consent on the most important changes to be made. The first major task is to gather evidence and for this action, the indicator chosen is that the research will be up-to-date, informed by vulnerable and marginalised people’s experience, and written to a high quality. If this measure of success is achieved, it will make a significant contribution to the achievement of the larger success indicator for the entire project, which could be, for example, an increase of 15% access to health services for mothers and young children by a specified date.
The importance of action planning
1.4 Creating an action plan