Cover Image
close this bookDesigning Human Settlements Training in African Countries - Volume 2: Trainer's Tool Kit (HABITAT, 1994, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe lecture
View the documentVisual aids
View the documentQuestion and answer
View the documentDiscussion
View the documentDemonstration
View the documentSimulation
View the documentThe case method
View the documentCritical incidents
View the documentRole-playing
View the documentInstrumentation
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentNominal group technique (NGT)
View the documentForce field analysis
View the documentAction planning
View the documentOther learning transfer strategies
View the documentPerformance analysis & needs assessment
View the documentTraining impact evaluation
View the documentTraining the staff to train
View the documentCoaching
View the documentTeam development
View the documentRole negotiation
View the documentIntergroup conflict intervention
View the documentOrganizational goal setting
View the documentA closing note

Action planning

Learning Emphasis

Organization Focus

We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.

- Abigail Adams

Elsewhere in this volume, techniques are discussed for generating ideas relative to a problem or opportunity (brainstorming, the nominal group technique) and for assessing alternative ways to use ideas to solve problems or seize opportunities (force field analysis). Once an individual or group has decided on the direction to be taken (made a decision), it is time to prepare for implementation. This is done using a process called action planning.

Action planning is often considered to be the crucial link between planning and implementation. Once a decision has been made by an individual or a group on the “best” option for attaining a desired purpose, it is time to put together a detailed action plan. An action plan describes in detail what is to be done, how it is to be done, by whom, and when. Thorough, detailed action plans are insurance for the decision-maker that the time spent in planning for change will result in reasonable implementation action. Therefore, action planning is an essential skill for managers and decision makers and for those who advise them.

An action plan should answer the following questions about a new policy, programme, or other change to be implemented:

1. What are the activities involved (steps to be taken)?

2. Who will take primary responsibility for each action? (Someone needs to be in charge.)

3. Who else needs to be involved?

4. When will each action be complete (not only how much time will be required, but a realistic date for completion)?

5. What resources will be needed (people, money, equipment, skills)?

6. How will it be known that progress is being made toward carrying out the option and achieving the desired purpose? How is success to be evaluated? What are the verifiable indicators?

Action planning, whether carried out by an individual or as a facilitated group activity, generally consists of these steps:

Step 1

The individual or group responsible for implementation begins by making a list of activities that need to be done to implement the policy, programme, or change. No effort is made to sequence or order the activities at this stage. However, a reasonably complete list should be compiled. Individual activities may be written on separate index cards so that they can be organized easily at a later stage of the process.

Step 2

When a reasonably complete list of activities has been prepared, they are ordered in a sequence. One way to do this - and at the same time to be sure that nothing important has been left out - is to start at the end and think backward, asking a series of questions. For example,

· Is this the result we want?
· What has to happen before this?
· And before that, what needs to be done?
· And so forth.

This process continues back to the starting point for action planning. As this process continues, the activities (on separate cards) are arranged in time sequence. For example, if the end point is a three-session training programme for homeowners to teach them building techniques, one might work backward in this fashion:

· The week before the programme, it will be necessary to make sure of last-minute preparations (i.e., the training materials are ready, the instructors are ready, the list of homeowners is complete).

· Even before that, it is necessary to secure a training site, (e.g., a demonstration house in the initial stages of construction).

· To secure a site it will be necessary to check out several possibilities.

· At about the same time, it will be necessary to assemble training materials (a construction booklet, building materials, tools etc.).

· Before all that, it will be necessary to have a training design.

· And so forth until arriving at the starting point.

A simple worksheet for compiling information generated during an action planning session is shown at the end of this section.

Step 3

When the sequence of activities has been developed, the activities may be charted in relation to one another and a time frame. A well-known method for charting a sequence of activities is called PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique). PERT enables all the members of a workgroup to see how their individual activities fit into the plan or projects as a whole and to consider how things might be done otherwise than originally planned. Also, PERT stresses the importance of teamwork and cooperation. It is a method that allows for revisions in a plan when things do not work out as expected. This is important since things rarely work out exactly as planned.

One way to develop a simplified PERT chart is for work groups to list activities on index cards as described earlier. The cards, in turn, are taped to a large matrix on a wall. Down one side of the matrix is listed the various actions to be taken and individuals or work groups with implementation responsibility. Across the top is a timetable in days, weeks, months or years as the case may be.

After work groups have posted their activities on the matrix in the sequence they believe appropriate, they negotiate changes in sequence and timing with one another, taking into account the relationship of their respective actions. The final product is a simple implementation plan complete with a realistic sequence of critical activities to be performed, persons responsible, and completion dates.

A format for the design of an action-planning matrix is shown at the end of this section.


A method for closing the gap between planning and implementation is action planning. Action planning proceeds from the selection of the “best” course of action to spell out in detail what is to be done, by whom and by when. The preparation of action plans is a three-step process that involves listing activities to be included in the plan, sequencing these activities, and assigning responsibility for performance to some person or group for completion by a specific date. When carried out in a group, action planning, using PERT, creates a valuable planning tool while promoting teamwork and improved work relationships.

Action Planning Worksheet

Name of Lead Individual/Agency _________________________________________________________


Group/Individual Responsibility

Co-operating Groups/Individuals

Completion Date






Action Planning Matrix

Action/Lead Responsibility

Within 1 Month

Within 6 Months

Within 1 Year