Action Planning: A Sequential Checklist

4 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2009

See all articles by Jeffrey R. Edwards

Jeffrey R. Edwards

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


This note presents a six-step sequence of points to consider when preparing an action plan, including stating objectives, generating alternatives, evaluating alternatives, selecting an alternative, implementing the alternative, and assessing its impact. (The checklist alone is given in OB-0371.)




Consider the following scenario:

You are preparing cases for the following day's classes. After reading and analyzing one case, an action plan quickly comes to mind. This action plan seems perfectly sound, either because it simply seemed like the right thing to do, or because you recall the positive effects of a similar plan in a previous job. You jot down the key elements of the action plan and make a brief list of its positive aspects. During class the following day, the professor calls on you to present your action plan. After listing its key elements and intended benefits, your classmates launch into a series of criticisms. One classmate lists a series of potential negative effects of your plan, none of which you had considered earlier. Another suggests that your plan may have its benefits, but it does not address the key set of problems identified in the case. Other classmates begin to propose alternative action plans, none of which you had considered the night before. When the class ends, you leave the room somewhat befuddled and annoyed.

The unpleasant scenario described above is not an uncommon experience for students in the case method. However, this scenario could often be avoided by preparing an action plan according to the logically ordered sequence of steps described in this note. These steps are summarized in the form of a checklist at the end of this note. By using this checklist to prepare your action plan, the quality of your action plan will be enhanced, and unexpected and unpleasant surprises will often be avoided.

1. What are my objectives? In almost every case, the problems are of sufficient number and magnitude that all of them simply cannot be addressed. This requires you to identify a limited number of high-priority problems to address in your action plan. Problems which are shared by many members of the organization, are critical to the survival of the organization, are urgent, or are considered important by key members of the organization should be considered high-priority. Identifying these high-priority problems, in turn, requires you to consider the situation from multiple perspectives, including members of the organization as well as relevant outsiders, such as suppliers, customers, and so on. You should state these problems clearly, indicating what each person wants, what they have (or expect to receive in the future), and the amount of importance associated with this disparity. You should then use these high-priority problems to define the objectives of your action plan, such that the action plan is explicitly directed toward solving high-priority problems.

. . .

Keywords: action planning, business planning, planning

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Jeffrey R., Action Planning: A Sequential Checklist. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0370. Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey R. Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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