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Actions Plans

See decisions

See topic work

From Management, Revised Edition, Chapter 11 on Strategic Planning

Everything Degenerates Into Work

The best plan is only good intentions unless it leads into work.

What makes a plan capable of producing results is the commitment of key people to work on specific tasks.

The test of a plan is whether management actually commits resources to action that will bring results in the future.

Unless such commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes, but no plan.

A plan needs to be tested by asking managers, "Which of your best people have you put on this work today?"

The manager who comes back (as most of them do) and says, "But I can't spare my best people now; they have to finish what they are doing now before I can put them to work on tomorrow" is simply admitting that he or she does not have a plan.

But this manager also proves that a plan is needed, for it is precisely the purpose of a plan to show where scarce resources and the scarcest is good people—should be working.

Work implies not only that somebody is supposed to do the job, but also accountability, a deadline, and, finally, the measurement of results—that is, feedback from results on the work and on the planning process itself.

In strategic planning, measurements present very real problems, especially conceptual ones.

Yet precisely because what we measure and how we measure determine what will be considered relevant, and, thereby, determine not just what we see, but what we—and others—do, measurements are all-important in the planning process.

Above all, unless we build expectations into the planning decision including a fair understanding of what are significant deviations both in time and in scale—in such a way that we can find out early whether they are actually fulfilled or not, we cannot plan.

We have no feedback, no way of self-control from events back to the planning process.

The manager cannot decide whether he or she wants to make risk-taking decisions with long futurity; making such decisions defines the role of manager.

All that is within a manager's power is to decide whether he or she wants to make them responsibly or irresponsibly, with a rational chance of effectiveness and success, or as a blind gamble against all odds.

And both because the decision-making process is essentially a rational process and because the effectiveness of the entrepreneurial decisions depends on the understanding and voluntary efforts of others, the approach will be more responsible and more likely to be effective if it is rationally, organized, and based on knowledge, not prophecy.

The end result, however, is not knowledge but strategy.

Its aim is action now.

See "What is our Plan" in The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization

See David Allen's Project Planning Guide

See the Methodology: PIP section of Mike Kami's CPPM. You'll have to expand the outline to see the details.

Find "GO Putting the Thinking to Work" in Teach Yourself to Think

Write An Action Plan

Executives are doers; they execute.

Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been translated into deeds.

But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan his course.

He needs to think about desired results, probable restraints, future revisions, check-in points, and implications for how he'll spend his time.

First, the executive defines desired results by asking: "What contributions should the enterprise expect from me over the next 18 months to two years?

What results will I commit to?

With what deadlines?"

Then he considers the restraints on action: "Is this course of action ethical?

Is it acceptable within the organization?

Is it legal?

Is it compatible with the mission, values, and policies of the organization?"

Affirmative answers don't guarantee that the action will be effective.

But violating these restraints is certain to make it both wrong and ineffectual.

The action plan is a statement of intentions rather than a commitment.

It must not become a straitjacket.

It should be revised often, because every success creates new opportunities.

So does every failure.

The same is true for changes in the business environment, in the market, and especially in people within the enterprise—all these changes demand that the plan be revised.

A written plan should anticipate the need for flexibility.

In addition, the action plan needs to create a system for checking the results against the expectations.

Effective executives usually build two such checks into their action plans.

The first check comes halfway through the plan's time period; for example, at nine months.

The second occurs at the end, before the next action plan is drawn up.

Finally, the action plan has to become the basis for the executive's time management.

Time is an executive's scarcest and most precious resource.

And organizations—whether government agencies, businesses, or nonprofits—are inherently time wasters.

The action plan will prove useless unless it's allowed to determine how the executive spends his or her time.

Napoleon allegedly said that no successful battle ever followed its plan.

Yet Napoleon also planned every one of his battles, far more meticulously than any earlier general had done.

Without an action plan, the executive becomes a prisoner of events.

And without check-ins to reexamine the plan as events unfold, the executive has no way of knowing which events really matter and which are only noise.

The Effective Executive

You can make all the plans you will, plot to make a fortune in the commodities market, speculate on developing trends: all will likely come to naught, for “however carefully you plan for the future, someone else’s actions will inevitably modify the way your plans turn out.” — James Burke from his book Connections

All plans hinge on human dynamics in the end

Work is only done when it’s done

Done by people

By people who are properly informed, assigned and equipped

People with a deadline

People who are developed and evaluated

The best plan is only a plan—a set of good intentions—unless there is




Continuous reallocation of the organization’s resources to getting results

The most brilliant planners far too often stop when the plan is completed

But that is when the work begins

Then the planner needs to

Find the people to carry out the plan

Explain the plan to them

Teach them


Adapt and change the plan as it moves from planning to doing

Finally, decide when to stop pushing for the plan

Power and influence in organizations can often be exerted from unexpected quarters

Who in the organization is routinely called upon to offer advice

A hub of influence, regardless of the person’s title or place in the company’s formal hierarchy

Any CEO who believes he controls the organization is kidding himself

The people in the plants control you

He’ll sit in that big office and push a button and nothing will happen

It is this informal organization, rather than management, which actually determines rates of output, standards, job classification and job content

What’s more, you can never penalize people because of the candid feedback you receive from their colleagues

If such information is used to “impose control … from above,” Drucker warned, it will “inflict incalculable harm by demoralizing” the entire workforce

Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes

Knowledge has to be improved, notions and ideas have to be challenged, or else the knowledge ‘vanishes’

“What needs to be done?”

Then they ask, “Of those things that would make a difference, which are right for me?”

They do not undertake things that they are not good at; they hire instead

The successful leaders are not know-it-all and do-it-all geniuses; they lead and delegate

Here lies a man who knew how to put into his service more able men than he was himself

List of topics in this Folder


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence;

it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker



The shift from manual workers
who do as they are being told
either by the task or by the boss —

TO knowledge workers
who have to manage themselves

profoundly challenges social structure


Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” …

“It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities:
Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life),

and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context



More than anything else,

the individual
has to take more responsibility
for himself or herself,
rather than depend on the company.”


“Making a living is no longer enough
‘Work’ has to make a life .” continue

finding and selecting the pieces of the puzzle


The Second Curve




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving relentlessly toward unimagined futures.



What’s the next effective action on the road ahead




It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then working out a plan for coping with what you’ve rejected.

Your future is between your ears and our future is between our collective ears — it can’t be otherwise.

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