The planning process is incomplete until detailed action plans are in place.
To gain the commitment and support of the staff that will implement the action plan, it is imperative to use a collaborative approach and involve them in the decision-making process. Their commitment is essential to the achievement of objectives and much can be done to secure their engagement in the process.
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To effectively develop action plans at store or department level relevant data and information must be gathered to inform decision-making. At this stage that information should ideally be available and provide a comprehensive perspective on the business directives and overarching strategic objectives of the business. Information on constraints and potential contingencies should also be available and what remains is to work with the teams involved and responsible for bringing action plans to fruition to develop them.
Effective action plans must:
- Be capable of implementation
- Achieve required goals and objectives
- Be trackable and measurable
Most plans fail not because they were inappropriate but because they were not effectively put into action. The planning management process is a continual and interactive process whereby the business will plan, act, reflect, evaluate and then plan again.
With well-defined, workable and realistic strategies, developing action plans should flow directly from the strategies. However, there are times when discussion of the details of action plans may highlight gaps or flaws in strategies. While there is a distinction between action plans and strategies, they should be viewed as part of the same planning process and it is advantageous for strategies to be flexible enough to be reviewed considering intelligence arising from the action planning process.
When developing action plans to address a strategy, it is necessary to clarify:
- The most cost-effective way to implement this strategy
- The actions that need to be taken over the period of its implementation
- Whether the action plan reflects the business’s mission, vision and values
- Whether it is aligned with overall strategic plans
- When each action should be completed
This can be a considerably time-consuming process, but as always an investment in planning is an investment in business success.
Key stages in action plan development include:
- Cost effectiveness
- Ascertaining whether the required budget is available
- Clarifying whether gains sufficiently outweigh costs
- Costs include: additional resources, staff diverted from other duties, lost sales and poor
- Performance during implementation
- Identifying all the actions over time
Ensure plan clarity
To be most effective action plans should identify several key factors. The extensive work undertaken needs to be evident in the quality of action plans without unnecessarily complicating the action plans themselves. Ideally we begin with complexity and simplify until action plans can be written to maximise their clarity.The key is to write from the perspective of the staff member that will be responsible for its success. Careful formatting can also help the process of clarification. Any effort undertaken to ensure plan clarity is an investment in the engagement and commitment of teams responsible for their implementation. If it’s not clear, it won’t be done.
Ensure plan alignment
Again, we reiterate the need to constantly refer to overarching business directives to ensure alignment of action plans with the wider business strategy. It is also helpful to consider plan alignment with store team culture and engagement. Giving teams the opportunity to get involved in action plan development can go a long way to inspiring a greater ownership of and commitment to strategies
they have developed through a consultative decision-making process rather than those imposed upon them. Involving teams in the decision-making process increases the sense of ownership even further.
Of the variety of decision-making methods available consensus decisions are the most effective. Consensus is reached through discussion, where members raise issues, possibly disagree and eventually reach a decision all members ‘can live with’. This is a time-consuming process but is most effective in terms of ownership of the decision by all members. This is particularly important to secure a streamlined implementation phase.
The considerable work involved in getting to the action plan phase is brought to fruition as plans are implemented. All the investment in research, consultation and planning is ideally repaid in a streamlined and straightforward implementation. At this stage organisational commitment needs to be reinforced by staff engagement and buy-in to prioritise the achievement of strategic objectives.
Set targets, standards and implementation process
The planning process should not only provide a path forward but also address the plan’s implementation. Clearly defining targets and performance standards assist the implementation process and can help to establish confidence in the staff charged with implementing the plan that they know what is expected of them in detail.
Regardless of the subject matter of strategy the implementation process may detail the need for:
- Detailed and ongoing planning sessions that include relevant staff and management
- Monitoring and reviewing processes to evaluate the strategy and adjust the implementation process appropriately
- Seeking regular feedback from stakeholders to include them in the process and ensure their ownership of the strategy In many cases project management principles may be required to drive and track the implementation phase and act as a central point of contact for communication, monitoring and review.
The most valuable insights resulting from post implementation review are those that highlight the unexpected. It is this information that is contributes to business intelligence and informs future business directives and strategic planning.Risk is a reality of any retail venture. The retail landscape is in transition, undergoing the most significant transformation since the first department stores in the early 20th century.
Businesses develop strategies based upon what they know and informed judgements on what is likely given the prevailing market conditions. Some impacts cannot be predicted.Any data that helps a retailer better understand themselves, their activities, the market in which they trade, their competitors, and most importantly their customers is of value. Gathering data on and reviewing the outcomes of strategic planning needs to be a key outcome of the strategic planning process.
About ARA Retail Institute
ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au