Galvin and Associates

A Simple Technique to Turbocharge Your Action Planning



The problem with written, action plans is that they are often unclear. Either they are a bunch of words in short paragraphs or a bulleted list of tasks. Because they are not visual, they do not communicate key information powerfully.

One of the most often-used tools in my toolkit is an action planning diagram that looks like stair steps. It is concise, fits on one page, and communicates the key information visually. You can draw it on a piece of paper or a flip chart when working with your team. Here is how you draw it.

1. Place yourself or your team at the bottom, left-hand side of the page. State your goal in results language and place it in a box on the top, right-hand side of the page.

2. Draw a set of stair steps (up one inch, the right one inch) from where you are to where you want to be. List all the key steps, or what has to happen, just to the right of each stair step on the diagram. Take the time to determine all the key steps and place them in sequence.

3. If a step is too complex or feels too difficult, break it down into sub-steps.

4. Add deadlines to certain steps as appropriate. I usually put the deadline in parentheses next to the step.

5. Add reinforcements or rewards to difficult steps as needed. Sometimes the goal itself is so rewarding that no other rewards are necessary. At other times, celebrating key milestones will keep the team motivated or prevent you from procrastinating.

6. Add key relationships you need for information, assistance, or emotional support. Sometimes a person with experience can help you with one of the steps.

7. Add a first step that is so simple that there is no way that you could fail at it. This helps you to overcome inertia and begin feeling a sense of progress immediately. For example, if your goal is to walk two miles a day, make your first step buying a new pair of shoes.

You can use this for personal planning or when working with your team. You can use it at work and at home. Feel free to email me for an example.

This planning tool just works. A long list of tasks can be demotivational, while a stair step diagram clearly shows how you are making progress toward your goal. It can help you get the whole team on the same page-literally. This can turbocharge your action planning. On which small goal or project could you try this right now?

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