4 Step Action Planning Process

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Monday, June 17, 2013

This blog and video are part of the continuing series of facilitation processes that are presented in the Facilitation Skills for Chaotic Times training program. The 4 Step Planning Process was originally developed by the Institute of Culture Affairs. 

When To Use This Process:

On the Process Enneagram this process would be used to developed detailed action plans. The key to selecting this process at the right time is to use it for a small chunk of strategic work. Many people get confused by chunk size. The strategic plan for an entire organization is the largest chunk size and the development of an action plan for a 2 day planning meeting is a small chunk size. The 4 Step process is best used for small chunk size planning outcomes. To see a whole video on the steps of the process click on the image below or click here. 

4 Steps in the Process:

As the name implies, there are 4 distinct steps in the process. The first is called the Victory Circle. In this step a team discusses what their evidence would be for success when the plan has been fully implemented. These ideas are charted in the middle of a circle (Victory Circle) on a flip chart or wall. These evidences of success become the specific goals of the plan.

The second step is to identify the major stumbling blocks that might occur in accomplishing the goals of the plan. These might be called problems, challenges, dilemmas, paradoxes or retraining patterns. These are charted around the outside of the Victory Circle. This second step is the most challenging. It is important to get to the underlying constraints rather than the surface issues like time, money, resistance to change etc.

The third step of the process can be done in a variety of ways. One simple way is to use a modified Workshop Method Process in which each person identifies a range of actions they would take to achieve the project goals. Each idea would be written on a 1/2 slip of letter-sized paper using large marking pens. These are then collected and posted on a large planning board. You can find more detailed information about the Workshop Method in my book Leadership Practices for Challenging Times.  

The fourth step of the process is to arrange the main strategies along a timeline. Each step of each strategy would be assigned a name and date. And there you have it. A completed action plan in about 60-75 minutes - not bad!

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