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6 Steps For Taking Action

6 Steps For Taking Action

It's not enough to know where you want or need to take action. You also must know how to take effective action. action planning, C-Suite, HR

There are times when you and others in your company will spend great effort to determine what needs to be done. Time and money will go into an assessment. You will debate and finally agree on one or more goals. Someone at the table will look at you and say, “When do you think you can have this done?"

Hold everything right there.

That's exactly the question you want to be asked. However, you don't want to answer it too quickly. You want to be realistic. You want to be fair to your team. You want to ensure you are set up for success.

You respond by saying something like this: "I know this is within the capabilities of my team. Give me a day to get with my team and together we will draft a timeline. I will share that with this group by close of business tomorrow for comment. Is there anything else I need to hear before I take this to my team?"

You might hear additional comments like:

  • This needs to be done by end of next quarter
  • There are no additional resources
  • This cannot result in a drop in current productivity
  • No overtime is planned or allowed
  • Get input from Mr X

You now have a good idea of what needs to be done. You also have some idea about the parameters and limitations that will impact your planning.

There are two typical approaches followed by many leaders as immediate next steps. First, many leaders do nothing. After all, next quarter is months away — no urgency here. Second, many leaders start barking orders to anyone and everyone. They want to demonstrate they are in charge — chaos follows. You made a 24 hour commitment. It was a good commitment. You need to keep it.

Your 6 Step Plan is: 

  1. Gather your core team. We all have a core team. Usually it is those three to five members of the team that are clear-headed and good thinkers. One or two may be strategic thinkers. One or two may be tactical thinkers. This is a good combination.
  2. Brainstorm approaches and options with your team. All ideas are good ideas. Quickly organize the ideas into two or three categories. This will depend on what you are solving. Category examples might be related to costs, or time, or effort, or complexity, or technology, or ease of communication.
  3. Get back with your senior team earlier than planned. Present a very draft set of prioritized options. Let each know this is very preliminary and that you want their input. In fact, let them know you value their input. This is best done in person, if possible, gathering quick responses while you share the draft.
  4. Follow up with your team. Incorporate ideas and feedback from the senior team. This is your chance to align you and your team’s ideas with those of your customer. Your senior team is your customer since they need to sign off on your recommendation.
  5. Select the top two or three ideas and for each draft out a simple time based action plan. This is for decision making purposes only, so it does not need to be a comprehensive project plan. Make sure you indicate key resource usage in this simple action plan, for example, how much time and how much money are needed. List out simple action steps showing who does what by when. List out your team members, giving them credit for their roles.
  6. Present your recommendation to your senior team no later than the 24-hour deadline. You have met your commitment.

Be prepared. Do this exercise with your team occasionally even when you do not have a senior team commitment to keep. This is good practice for the team. Occasional practice will allow you and your team to have the experience to deal with a real-life planning situation when it arrives.

Questions to ponder:

Are you ready to quickly respond to planning requests from senior leaders?

Do you have a simple, yet effective, action planning approach for you and your team?

Is your team ready to engage in brainstorming with little notice?

Can you and your team prioritize options that are within acceptable parameters for senior decision makers? Do you and your team work together, practicing to ready when the call comes?

About Philip Espinosa

Philip Espinosa partners with people to deliver value: People | Partnerships | Value serves as his tag line. As a strategic human resources leader, he believes that service starts with the customer. His book "Deliver Excellent Customer Service with a SNAP” helps others drive customer engagement using simple and consistent communication strategies. A second book titled "Focus On Your Success - 24 Simple Insights To Drive Daily Achievement" (ebook) helps working professionals view their daily choices through a different perspective. In addition to his writing, Philip works with strategic human capital initiatives and has delivered successful results over a career spanning more than 25 years.