Creative plans for practical implementation

The fourth phase of the ToP Strategic Thinking & Planning framework is Action Planning. Step-by-step plans are forged for each strategic direction. These are then assembled into a coordinated plan. High levels of engagement will take it well beyond simple buy-in, to a point of strong organisational commitment.

It’s the nitty-gritty, practical creativity where “the rubber hits the road”.  In business, this framework for doing shows up as operational or business planning, project commissioning.  Similarly for project management.

Technology of Participation Action Planning Method - Simon Kneebone

ToP Action Planning is about:

  • Engaging the thinking and attitude to create breakthroughs.  This involves working out a set of actions that will shift the inertia of the present and irrevocably alter the future. Then you decide to win on those actions.
  • Creating momentum, rather than detailed planning.  This is about shifting your imagination in practical ways.  It is not ‘project management lite’.  It can however be extended somewhat with partial use of project planning tools.


Towards good evaluation:

  • State objectives precisely so they can be evaluated meaningfully.  “Too hard” or “can’t measure it” are indicators of fuzzy thinking.
  • Often require both objective and subjective evaluation, therefore both quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Use evaluation results to inform the next planning cycle.  So you must have an accompanying outcome measure and use consistent terminology and precision language.


Action Planning Method – Process Steps

‘Victory Circle’

  • Recap the strategic thinking and planning flow. Outline the key Strategic Directions the session will focus on. Provide the practical result and the process for the session.
  • Articulate a specific, tangible victory for each direction. Describe in detail what it will look & feel like.


  • List factors in the situation that will (a) give you an advantage or (b) make you vulnerable.
  • These need to be real and tangible factors which are present now.

Practical Actions

  • Make a list of all the key actions required to achieve your victory.
  • Figure out the who, what, when, where and how of each action.
  • Discuss assumptions, dependencies, monitoring and evaluation, as time permits.


  • Place your actions on a calendar that shows some initial “quick wins” and what is required for achieving the substantial victory.  Include celebrations, and look for a rhythm that is fast moving and dramatic.
  • Place in sequence and discuss resource implications.

Slogan or Logo

  • Create some motivating slogans, symbols, logos, music or poetry that will remind you and your team what you are accomplishing.
  • Closing.  Reflect on the flow and connection from start to end.


So, where have you enabled a group to claim and plan victories that change their future for the better? What went well/not so well? What did you learn for next time?

Go well!


Leave a Reply