5 Principles to Your Best Action Plan Ever

Today’s guest post is written by Bryan Radtke, P&G’s Shopper Based Design Brand Manager, Bengals fan, and all around good guy.  Special thanks to him for picking up the slack on Hard Knox Life while I am out this week.

A few months ago I embarked on the annual painful journey that is fiscal year action plan development. The goal of this exercise is similar to many companies…put down on paper the stuff you are going to focus on for the next year, get your management buy in and sign off, and finally file it away, never looking at it again until next year. Yay! Time well spent.

I’m not sure if it’s my old age (I’m 29), the additional responsibility I’ve gained in the past year, or simply a new found passion for productivity, but what I hate more than anything is inefficient use of time. The Action Planning process definitely felt inefficient, so something had to change…and fast.

I decided to look at Action Planning for what it truly can be; a personal strategy to achieving your business goals. Excited yet? Didn’t think so.

Think about it this way. Businesses and organizations that succeed do so more often than not behind a solid, well thought out and executed strategy. Chances are if you are reading this you have a decent amount of ambition and would like to succeed in everything you do, including your career.

Think of your action plan as your personal strategy to that success.

If that didn’t hook you then try this. The unfortunate truth is no job is secure in today’s highly competitive business environment, and that includes your job. You need to earn your employer’s loyalty and bulletproof your career by communicating the unique points of difference and VALUE you bring to the table. The action plan becomes a personal compass to ensure you are:

  • Adding unique value
  • Elevating those around you
  • Demonstrating strategic thinking and ambition

Here are the 5 principles I followed:

  1. Ensure your work plan enhances the work of those around you: This seems like a pretty obvious one, but sometimes Mr. Obvious is absent from our everyday thinking. When you develop your work plan first list all the work you would like to do or think you should do. On the 2nd pass, put an X next to the work that directly affects (be honest) your management’s priorities or your direct reports work plan. Chances are there are several items without Xs. Everything you do should enable or enhance the work of those connected to you. If not, drop it.
  2. Get ALL key stakeholders aligned: I put the emphasis on ALL. If your job is anything like mine, chances are you don’t have just one “boss” or higher-up connected to your work. Take the time to ensure everyone is aligned and supportive to your focused priorities. It will save you a lot of headache in the end.
  3. FOCUS on the Signature Work: Signature work is the work you can uniquely put your name to — your stamp on. These are the items that make up the foundation of your entire assignment and separate you from the pack. This is an absolute MUST and shouldn’t be more than 1-2 items. Think of a brand trying to communicate too many benefits. The brand most likely ends up standing for nothing to the consumer. The brand that effectively focuses on the 1-2 most consumer relevant benefits and drives those relentlessly stands out for the consumer.
  4. Use It! As mentioned in the opening paragraph action plans are often created and shelved away never to be seen again. Big mistake. If your action plan is to truly become your personal strategy document you need to reference it, and often. Here are two easy techniques:
    • Make it the first thing your review in the morning:  As you plan your day ensure everything your putting effort into ties back to your action plan. Make it your routine. Drop whatever you are doing that day.
    • Use it in 1:1s with Management: Make it your talk piece in your meetings with management, and provide updates based on the action plan. This also keeps your action plan top of mind with management.
  5. Be Flexible…but Smartly: In a perfect world your action plan would never have to change. But inevitably due to new priorities or unforeseen circumstances you will need to evolve your action plan. That’s fine. It is important to show you are adaptable and flexible to an ever changing business environment. The key is to be smart with what you add or adjust and ensure you can truly deliver your action plan with excellence, especially your signature work. Just ensure your plan reflects this and you make the appropriate priority choices to make it happen.

Also ensure you build in time to hone those necessary business skills we don’t always love to do (networking, career training, self-marketing) but are critical to business success.

Hopefully you will find these principles as helpful as I did and think about applying to your next round of action planning. I think you will discover new found focus and energy in your everyday work.

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