Developing an Action Plan

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

ActionPlan2Concept description

Jenette Nagy and Stephen Fawcett, writing in Community Tool Box (reference below), set out a process for developing an action plan.

Developing an action plan is is the fifth step in VMOSA – Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans. Application of Nagy and Fawcett’s advice need not be restricted to community organizations. It can be applied to strategic planning in a wide variety of public management contexts.

What is an action plan

Nagy and Fawcett define an action plan as follows:

“In some ways, an action plan is a “heroic” act: it helps us turn our dreams into a reality. An action plan is a way to make sure your organization’s vision is made concrete. It describes the way your group will use its strategies to meet its objectives. An action plan consists of a number of action steps or changes to be brought about in your community.

“Each action step or change to be sought should include the following information:

  • What actions or changes will occur
  • Who will carry out these changes
  • By when they will take place, and for how long
  • What resources (i.e., money, staff) are needed to carry out these changes
  • Communication (who should know what?)”

They say that action plans should be:

  • Complete, listing list all the action steps or changes to be sought in all relevant parts of the community (e.g., schools, business, government, faith community).
  • Clear, specifying who will do what by when.
  • Current, reflecting current work and anticipating newly emerging opportunities and barriers.
How to write an action plan

Nagy and Fawcett suggest the following process:

  • Convene a panning group to design the action plan
  • Develop an action plan composed of action steps that address all the proposed changes. The plan should be complete, clear, and current. Additionally, the action plan should include information and ideas you have already gathered while brainstorming about your objectives and your strategies. What are the steps you must take to carry out your objectives while still fulfilling your vision and mission? Now it’s time for all of the VMOSA components to come together. While the plan might address general goals you want to see accomplished, the action steps will help you determine the specific actions you will take to help make your vision a reality. Action steps should determine:
    • What action or change will occur
    • Who will carry it out
    • When it will take place, and for how long
    • What resources (i.e., money, staff) are needed to carry out the change
    • Communication (who should know what)
  • Review your completed action plan carefully to check for completeness. Make sure that each proposed change will help accomplish your group’s mission. Also, be sure that the action plan taken as a whole will help you complete your mission; that is, make sure you aren’t leaving anything out.
  • Follow through. Remember the 80-20 rule: successful efforts are 80% follow through on planned actions and 20% planning for success.
  • Keep everyone informed about what’s going on. Communicate to everyone involved how his or her input was incorporated. No one likes to feel like her wit and wisdom has been ignored.
  • Keep track of what (and how well) you’ve done. Always keep track of what the group has actually done. If the community change (a new program or policy) took significant time or resources, it’s also a good idea to evaluate what you have done, either formally or informally.
  • Celebrate a job well done! Celebrate your accomplishments; you and those you work with deserve it. Celebration helps keep everyone excited and interested in the work they are doing.
Getting members to do what they said they would

Nagy and Fawcett suggest how to uses gentle reminders to make it easier for members to get things done (and harder to avoid work:

  • Regular phone calls from staff members or dedicated volunteers asking others how they are doing with their tasks. This should be a supportive call, not a “are you doing what you’re supposed to” call. The person calling can offer emotional support “how are you doing?” as well as see if the group member needs any other assistance. A friendly call such as this can be seen as helpful, give the member the sense that he is a very important part of the group, and serve as a great reminder to do what he said he would do.
  • Distributing the action plan in writing to all members, with names attached to specific tasks. (Additionally, this can be a great time to ask for feedback before the plan becomes “official.”)
  • Making sure timelines (with due dates) are complete, clear and current.
  • At regular group meetings, such as committee meetings or board meetings, ask members to report on accomplishing the tasks they have set out to do. Consider making this a regular part of the meeting.
  • Celebrate the accomplishment of tasks. It’s important that getting something done actually means something, and is recognized by the group as a whole.

They suggest that it is necessary to follow up on the action plan regularly.

“You are asking members to be accountable, and to get things done on a regular basis. If they have agreed, you should help them fulfill their commitment as best you can.”


Jenette Nagy and Stephen B Fawcett, Developing an Action Plan, Community Tool Box, at, accessed 22 March 2016.

Atlas topic and subject

Strategizing (core topic) in Leadership Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 24 March 2016.

Image: The Testers Edge, at, accessed 22 March 2016.