Why Action Plans are Important in Business

A recent study conducted by Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California found that people who write their goals down accomplish significantly more than those who do not.


When we take the time to write, we tend to focus on what is actionable.

Action is what moves us forward, and action plans are essential tools in running a successful enterprise.

Identify Goals

In order to structure an effective action plan, you must first identify its goals.

That means figuring out where you — or your employee — is right now, as well as where opportunities for growth exist.

These opportunities come directly from whoever will be implementing the plan. Important questions to ask include:

  • Where are you right now?
  • What’s the plan?
  • What’s the challenge you thought most about?

Once opportunities have been identified, the coach (or mentor) can assist the employee with visual learners, graphics, and even physical tools like exercise balls.

Every week, there should be an action plan reconciliation in order to understand that the opportunity identified was addressed and that the technique applied was effective.

If the targeted change has not been made, it is important not to move on to the next opportunity.

In an organization, the motion and momentum must move linearly from one opportunity to the next.

If a goal is not being met, you can always modify your technique, but not the sequence.

Action is Work

Coaching sessions should be safe spaces. Normal work talk should be left behind to make room for the new work — the action plan.

Typically, coaching an action plan should only need 20 minutes initially; follow-up sessions might be as short as three minutes.

Any longer than that, and you are probably storytelling rather than coaching.

In a perfect setup, formulating action plans becomes a proactive exercise, yet action plans are, by definition, remedial.

Correcting incorrect behavior and/or habits is always the first step, so while it may sound counterintuitive, the proactive part of an action plan actually comes after the remedial one.

In other words, first correct what is causing the bad result or issue, then the proactive aspects of the action plan can be explored.

Again, the motion should only go one way (forward) with one action at a time.

Opportunity to Grow

One coaching method that has proven very effective for action planning is the GROW Model, which stands for Goals, Reality, Opportunities, and Way Forward.

Using this method, one of the coach’s first orders of business is to check their employee’s understanding of the goal itself.

Once that has been established, the coach will help them realize if they are on their way to reaching the goal.

To achieve clarity, employees are asked for SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound — action items which they feel they can accomplish.

Coaches should never hesitate to pitch in if their people are missing a couple of steps in reaching their goals.

Initially, coaching sessions should occur weekly. This makes it easier to measure accountability with the action plan than with monthly or bi-weekly check-ins.

Depending on the project and level of progress, however, a coach may decide to go for longer periods between meetings.

Take Action

Coaching is a very personal discipline, and action plans should be personalized.

Yet, in business, it’s always the numbers that tell the story of success or failure.

We should always be able to measure the deficit or gap of an employee (or other mentees) from the ultimate goal in terms of clearly-defined metrics.

Distributing improvements across the remaining days of the month will help discern an appropriate daily goal for the individual to reach a winning cadence and, ultimately, achieve the action plan’s goal.

That being said, the most important action a team member can take is to be accountable for their assigned tasks within the designated timeframe.

A manager, on the other hand, is accountable for coaching their team members consistently, most importantly tracking and maintaining progress; they carry the entire team’s success — or failure — on their shoulders.

Provide Incentives

Ideally, the coach has been given a budget for incentives, which will allow them to make the action plan a competitive exercise.

Rewarding the team member who exceeds their goals the most can be what it takes to lift the entire team’s performance and exceed the action plan’s goals.

Friendly competition within a team can be unbelievably effective, as long as the coach is careful to add qualifiers so that everyone has a chance to thrive.

When people are given unrealistic expectations or forced to compete at a level higher than that for which they are prepared, demoralization can be the result.

In these cases, the action plan can quickly turn into inaction.

Sadly, many action plans are tossed aside because of unrealistic expectations, poor communication, and/or subpar coaching.

Always remember that action plans are essential to an organization’s success and to individual growth.

Indeed, it is the action plan that bridges the two.

About the Author: 

Robbie Gallegos is the Vice President of the Launch Division at Cyberbacker, the leading provider of virtual assistant services worldwide. At Cyberbacker, Gallegos is responsible for event management and improving franchise awareness. Gallegos has deep expertise in event management, and sales, and helps others excel while working from home.

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