Develop the Action Plan Quick Tool [2.1.6]
Now that the strategy is chosen and the intervention is selected, you can finalize agreements and establish commitment among participants in order to develop your action plan.
An action plan is a documented strategy for solving a problem. An action plan can also be known as a statement of work or study plan. At the very basic, the action plan is the documentation of what tasks will be done, by whom, and when. The action plan helps you to manage the project and maintain focus on the goal.
According to F. John Reh in Project Management 101
, project management has four main concerns:
- Resources (people, equipment, material);
- Time (task durations, dependencies, critical path);
- Money (costs, contingencies, profit); and
- Scope (project size, goals, and requirements).
Completing this step will finalize your strategy to build a recruitment or retention plan.
Overview of Project Management Phases and Processes
For those readers who require minimal information to complete their plan, Mindtool.com provides an overview of project management phases and processes. The Project Management Phases and Processes
article explains project management methodologies concentrating on the phases and processes that will help ensure the deliverables produced meet the goals intended.
Detailed Explanation of Tasks
For a more detailed analysis, follow the tasks outlined below. These tasks are not sequential; many may need to be completed in tandem.
Task 1: Select a Responsible Implementer (Team Leader or Project Manager)
The implementer needs to be a person who understands the goals and can coordinate the plan. This person should have authority, or access to those in authority, in order to build internal support and secure necessary approvals.
The team leader is responsible for:
- Developing and overseeing the action plan;
- Providing support to team members;
- Communicating the plan’s objectives and tasks;
- Monitoring resources; and
- Communicating to those not involved in the action plan, such as authorities and key influencers.
Task 2: Provide a Support Team
Team members should be selected according to the actions to be taken, similar to the process by which members of an advisory committee were selected. For more information on team member roles, see Basic Characteristics for Team Member Selection.
There are basic characteristics and/or competencies for member selection. Although competencies of team members should relate to the tasks and meet the specific needs and focus of the project, the following characteristics should be considered:
- Interest or knowledge in the area of focus of the project;
- Ability to work constructively as part of a team;
- Availability and time for the project and permission of supervisor; and
- Genuine interest in improving the services of the organization.
Task 3: Set Up the Action Plan
Some of materials related to setting up the action plan are adapted on the Decision Process Guide
from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation.
The goal of the action plan is to:
- Describe the key elements;
- Communicate intended actions, resources, and timeframes;
- Document and measure actions and events;
- Record the actions that have occurred; and
- Be flexible to accommodate changes and to document readjustments.
In short, the action plan is used to establish the format for tracking and documenting implementation of the strategy including challenges, barriers, and modifications.
Action plans can document the following information:
- Actions that are to be taken by whom, and why;
- The timeframe for each action;
- Team members and their roles;
- Relationships between team members;
- The reporting process;
- How decisions are made;
- The funding/resources available;
- The connection between events;
- Milestones (significant events);
- Documents or reports produced;
- Tasks related to the process of examination, evaluation, or assessment;
- The expected solution; and
- How the intervention will be evaluated.
Actions plans are usually divided into phases with reporting and evaluation breaks indicated. They are examined regularly and revised at appropriate intervals.
Action Plan Documentation Resources:
There are several resources and forms to help document your plan. Some are more detailed than others. The following are suggested for your use:
- Gantt Chart Worksheet. A Gantt Chart can be used in planning and scheduling complex projects. This worksheet can assist in showing the actions that are to be taken, by whom, when, and why.
- Table Action Plan [2.1.7.c]. This is a simple table that provides the necessary structure to document and track your strategy.
- S.M.A.R.T. and R.A.C.I.N. Objectives [2.10.1c 1]. This document can be used to help build appropriate objectives.
- Project Management Interactive Workbook [2.1.7.a]. This workbook includes these, and other, suggested managerial forms to support your action plan:
- Action Item Worksheet
- Milestones Worksheet
- Work Breakdown Structure Worksheet
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Resource Commitment Matrix (RCM)
- Communication Plan Worksheet
Task 4: Determine How the Plan Will Be Evaluated
Planning for evaluation should begin immediately during the development of the action plan. Determining the evaluation process at this stage can help clarify and provide mutual understanding about what is “success.” This will ensure that everyone stays within the scope of the project.
There are two types of evaluations required for a successful intervention or project – a process evaluation and an outcome evaluation.
A process evaluation is done during the implementation stage to determine if the tasks and activities were completed as planned. It includes quantitative and qualitative information on what was done, who was involved, and the timeframe in which the tasks and activities were completed.
An outcome evaluation is completed at the end of the intervention to determine if the tasks and activities implemented have achieved the intended results.
The following steps can be used for completing both the process and outcome evaluations. The first three are discussed further.
- Identify the intervention question and the specific outcomes (what changes you want to occur).
- Identify indicators (the amount of change) and measures of success.
- Select the design and methodology for both process and outcome evaluations.
- Define the procedures within the action plan for conducting the evaluations.
- Determine the expected end product and finalize the evaluation plans.
Identify the intervention question and outcomes. In this case it is the workforce problem or situation defined in the previous step of this Building a Recruitment and Retention Plan chapter.
Identify indicators and measures of success. Measurements that show process success can include the following criteria:
- What is the change you want to make and in what amount?
- Was the milestone met?
- What were the major barriers to successfully meeting the milestone? Can barriers be modified or resolved? How can you enlist support to make success possible?
- Was the task implemented according to the timeline? If not, why? What would have assisted in staying on schedule?
Select the design and methodology. There are a variety of evaluation designs and methodologies that meet different needs and should be considered when determining the outcome evaluation design and creating the evaluation plan.
Questions to consider when designing an evaluation plan include:
- How will the data be measured? Data could be measured by review of records and data; via self-administered, managed, or formal surveys; by observation; and/or by interviews or focus groups.
- What data should be collected to verify outcome success? Should it be quantitative (expressed in numerical terms) or qualitative (narrative information), or both? Should it be a sample (smaller representation), a wider scope, or entire data? Will permission or consent be needed to collect the data? Is confidentiality an issue? For more information on collecting data, see Data Collection Overview [2.1.7.d].
- Who will collect the data? What training or resources will they need? What specific activities will be assigned to each evaluator? How they will be supervised?
- When data will be collected for analysis (at what measurable points)? If you have data collected from Step 1in this chapter as a base (your current retention and turnover rates, past organizational history, etc.), at what other time points does data need to be collected? Do you need to collect the data at a specific time? Would it be more useful after a series of events? Are there realistic time points to collect data?
- What is the data collection procedure? There should be a clear process to be followed in order for the data to be useful and valid including collecting, inspecting, cleaning, coding, entering, and analyzing the data.
- How will the evaluation data be analyzed? Should this be through comparisons of averages, frequency of quantitative data, or by qualitative content? For more information on data analysis, see Data Analysis Overview [2.1.7.e].
Task 5: Communicate the Plan and Status
Regular project communication should discuss current actions, changes, potential problems, solutions, and unmet objectives. It may also include funds spent and resources used. How information is communicated and with whom is an essential component of the project success.
How to communicate
Vital information is important, but too much communication causes overload and inattention. Team members should regularly “check-in” and be provided with vital information. Most communication occurs when there is a problem, but proactive methods of communication support progress and is more effective in reaching the goal. A variety of communication media should be used, including face-to-face meetings or telephone calls. To avoid email overload which may cause staff to overlook important requests, make clear what information requires a response, limiting the emails for immediate actions or assignments. Use other methods to update staff on the status of the action plan such as wikis, communal folders, up-to-date hard copy binders in accessible libraries, or regular email updates without action request.
Who should be involved in communication?
In addition to those working directly on the project there are other people who need to be updated.
Although there may be a team leader or project manager, most of the staff involved may report directly to another supervisor for the majority of their work. If this is the case, communication should include the team members’ direct supervisors. Information on their supervisees’ accomplishments, time involvement, challenges, and general progress within the project should be provided on a regular basis.
There are members in administration that require updates. This is especially important when authorization or resources are required. It may be necessary to get input on organizational policies or procedures to ensure actions are sanctioned.
Organizational strategies dealing with recruitment and retention issues will impact many departments. Information should flow to and from these departments not only to get endorsement of the planned actions, but also to receive valuable insight from multiple perspectives.
Communication resources include:
- The Project Management Interactive Workbook [2.1.7.a]. This workbook includes the tab, Communication Plan Worksheet, which documents the details of the communication plan for example, the format of communication, the originator of the communication efforts, and with whom and how often communication occurs.
- A Project Stoplight Chart [2.10.1.c.4]. This chart provides at-a-glance color-coded status for each designated task. It is generally completed by a subordinate for reporting status to a supervisor on a monthly basis or a predetermined interval. All problems areas are then accompanied by a Project Status Report [2.1.7.b] to identify the challenges, suggest resources, and receive project manager approval, in order to improve the status of the task.
Task 6: Implement and Manage Project Tasks
The project manager or team leader’s task is to help keep the focus on the goals of the project. The article, How to Manage A Project
can provide insight by describing specific tasks assigned to the project manager or team leader.
Problems that arise
Of major concern to the project manager are problems that arise and require review and action.
When faced with a problem, evaluate it in regard to the level of the problem. An assessment should be made concerning how the problem impacts the project, as opposed to the impact it makes on an individual team member. Generally, if it impacts the individual only, it can be resolved on that level. However, if it impacts the project, more team members may be needed to resolve the problem.
Actions suggested for problems that affect the project:
- Determine which other team members will be affected by this problem and decide who, within the team or outside, has the talent or knowledge to resolve the problem.
- Get input from these sources to gather alternatives and select the best solution. (For additional assistance, see Define the Problem and Make a Decision [2.1.3.a.3].)
- Once the solution is selected, it should be incorporated into the action plan and affected team members should be informed.
- Lessons learned should be integrated into the action plan and discussed.
- The Decision Log sheet, found in the Project Management Interactive Workbook [2.1.7.a], can track all major decisions made during the course of the project.
Team members’ responsibilities
Mark Mullaly in “The Numbers Game”
discusses the responsibilities of every member associated with a project. He states that members’ roles are:
- To understand what the project means to them – how it will impact their roles now and how their roles will be different once the project is completed;
- To know what is expected of them, including scheduled deadlines and milestones, and reporting proactively on the status of meeting or missing deadlines and milestones;
- To have a voice in resolving issues if their expertise can contribute to the resolution or if they are impacted by the problem;
- To understand the current status of the project and effectively manage progress toward that status (this includes everyone involved in a project, such as sponsors, steering committee members, managers, and team members); and
- To provide individual assurance that the deliverables and outcomes of their part of the project will be completed as intended and usable.
- Stoplight. This sheet contains a status report that can be used to keep sponsors, team members, and stakeholders informed of project progress.
- Budget. This sheet allows you to track original budget, expenditures to date, and any cost variance.
- Issues.This log allows you to identify and monitor project issues (unplanned events that have happened).
- Roster. This sheet provides contact information for all those involved in the project.
- Resource Assignment Matrix (RAM). This matrix shows you what type of resource is responsible for, or somehow involved with, each deliverable. The tasks listed are samples; you should update the RAM with tasks appropriate for your project.
- Decision.This log sheet allows you to track all major decisions made during the course of the project.
- Expectations. This sheet allows you to identify and track the expectations of various stakeholders.
- Change Control Log (Chg Log). This sheet allows you to track all change requests that are in process or finalized.
- Timesheet Totals (TimeSum). This sheet allows you to track effort hours of your entire team by individual and by month.
- Timesheet. This timesheet can be used by each team member to submit effort hours by activity and by month.
Task 7: Examine and Evaluate the Plan; Readjust the Plan
Modifications may have been made to the action plan between the time the evaluation plan was developed and the completion of the intervention. Changes, added activities, and the results of the process evaluation may produce necessary adjustments to the original outcome evaluation plan.
The following actions can be taken to update the evaluation plan prior to the final evaluation:
- Review the original evaluation plan and make modifications or amend the plan to meet the changes made.
- Ask the following questions when reviewing an evaluation plan:
- Is the schedule for data collection realistic for the current implementation?
- Are the resources and staff available to collect the data?
- Are the collection procedures that were established still valid for collecting, inspecting, cleaning, coding, entering, and analyzing the data?
- Does the evaluation staff need additional training that was not suspected when the plan was written?
- Are staff members available to analyze the data?
- Are there clear and effective procedures to analyze the data and suggest conclusions? Is there another method of analysis that should be used due to changes in the data?
- Are needed technical resources available? Are there new resources or computer software that would be more effective?
- Re-assign evaluation task if needed.
- Establish appropriate timelines.
The purpose of the outcome evaluation is to measure success of the intervention. Ask the following questions:
- Did the tasks provide the required outcomes?
- What other outcomes were achieved?
- Can the results or conclusions be traced back to the intervention?
The following information can be used to help you evaluate your project:
Task 8: Report and Communicate the Outcomes
Reviewing and identifying which practices were successful and which were not can be valuable to the organization and the team. Schedule a “Lessons Learned” discussion including all team members. Ask for consensus on what worked best and what needed more work or a change. Examine and ask for alternative approaches to problems and reasons behind effective processes. Determine how the problems can be avoided and the effectiveness duplicated in the future.
A final evaluation report should include these elements:
- Problem statement;
- Summary of the action plan;
- What changes were made, how they related to the identified concern, and who they were made by;
- Staff involved in the project;
- If the project was completed on time;
- Continuing action needed; and
- Continuing action planned.
Who should receive a final report?
In addition to team members, other key stakeholders should receive a final report. These include direct supervisors of team members, administration contacts, and head of departments impacted. Administration should decide whether to incorporate a discussion in which external stakeholders are informed about the results of the project.
This concludes the steps to Building a Recruitment and Retention Plan Chapter.
Support for Implementing Your Action Plan
[2.1.7.f] is available through the other Recruitment and Retention Chapters on this Web portal.
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