There are times in life when it’s great to have no plan. Days at the beach, drives in the car, and if you are lucky … the time to be able to spend weeks exploring back roads at your leisure.

Take advantage of those times while you can. However, for most people, they don’t last long. Ironically, many of those unplanned trips do in fact take a lot of planning. This is especially true as you get older and have mortgages to pay, pets to feed and more people and processes that require your time and attention. But, this post is not about accountability. This is a post about what happens when there are no actions associated with a plan. The simple answer is … usually nothing!

Corollary: If your plan is to have no results then you can quickly check this off on your list (wait … that’s a plan — doh!)

When it comes to getting things done it’s much better to have a plan. A roadmap. A guideline. Whether it’s just a plan for yourself and especially if you have a whole crew of people counting on you. Having something to insure you and the team on board, and having something that can be measured against, is important.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” ~Lewis Carroll

What could be worse that having no plan?

The only thing worse than having no plan is … having no actions.

Action is Required … Or Else!

Assigning actions to your plans is critical. It is an art to assign the right actions at the right time and to the right people (if there are others involved). Be prepared to spend the necessary time to think through all the implications of Action Assignments. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered and evaluated related to expertise, timing, availability of resources, how to measure success, and many other elements.

One critical element to keep in mind is that plans are in constant motion – even if that motion is just the movement of time. If motion is not considered and accounted for the plan can fall victim to what Will Rogers said.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~ Will Rogers

Why Have a Plan?

Because if you don’t … not only will you never get anywhere, you wont even know you’ve never arrived. This might seem counter-intuitive, but the point is … A Plan without Action is just a dream.

Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.

A plan implies there will be actions. But, unless actions are assigned to tasks the plan is destined to fail.

Show me a plan without actions and I’ll show you a happy coincidence

Plans Have a Lifecycle

Just like a homebuilder cannot build the roof before the foundation. Plans have a lifecycle and a logical flow for how things need to happen. Actions need to be tied to that flow.

Architect your plans. Architect your actions.

Very much like SMART Goal, plans and actions need to be time based too. They have a shelf life. They do go stale. Plan for Action.

Caveats, Tips and Things to Look Out For:

  • Just having a plan does not mean it’s a good plan. Sanity check the plan with various stakeholders and also with outsiders when possible. Your mentors are a good place to start.
  • Share Your Plan — Studies have shown that telling people is one more way to make yourself accountable and it gives others permission to check in on you.
  • Expect to put in the work to think through the implications for each Action Assignment.
  • Don’t get complacent with each accomplishment. Enjoy the moment and get ready for the next action.
  • Plan For the Future, but not too far. Going out too far into the future with a plan can paralyze the process which defeats the purpose of assigning Actions to Plans.

A goal is a dream with a deadline. ~Napoleon Hill

What’s your plan?

  • Do you have one? More than one?
  • Have you assigned specific actions to each step?
  • How do you know when a plan has been successful?


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing

Image Credit: will ockenden