Action plan map
Action plan map
A powerful co-creation mapping tool to plan and get a first understanding of the complexities of a new initiative / product / service / etc.
This article provides you with an overview how you can use a project or action plan map to plan a new greenfield initiative / project / product.
Sep 28, 2023 – Updated Nov 11, 2023, 9:19 AM
Action (project) plan map
What is a action plan map?
An action or project plan map is a mapping technique to kick off the implementation of a new initiative, project, product or service.
It helps to understand early on
- the primary and secondary objective (outcome)
- the required steps to achieve this objective,
- the relevant stakeholders and their impact on this target,
- the setup of the core team and needed resources,
- potential dependencies,
- what are success factors and potential risk during the various phases
- and what should be avoided.
How to do it?
There is no specific order what to do first and usually you update the different segments as you move along with the concrete actions. It is advised to do this as co-creation with core team members.
Nevertheless, it helps to follow this path:
Start with the objective you want to achieve.
There are of course many scenarios how an initiative is started. Sometimes you might already have drafted an opportunity or business model canvas, an impact map or other tools to understand the target. It might also be that you have only a first rough understanding of the target when you create your action plan or that someone passed on a bigger topic that you will start elaborating, etc.
All that matters at this stage is that you create a common understanding in the core team what outcomes you want to achieve for whom.
You might already have multiple objectives in mind. Don't worry about this at the beginning. You can cluster your objectives at a later stage and group them to primary and secondary targets.
When you start thinking about the objectives don't forget to also collect what is not an objective and should be avoided.
Depending on the objectives it might already be a good moment to map the objective towards
- the outcomes you want to create for the user
- and the objectives you want to achieve for the company
In this case you adjust the action plan slightly:
You can phrase the outcome already as a first how-might-we / problem statement:
GIVEN THAT (context) HOW MIGHT WE HELP (persona) TO DO/ACHIEVE/FEEL/BE (outcome) SO THEY CAN (deeper outcome) TO OVERCOME (constraint or barrier)
What I usually do also at the beginning is to map out the relevant stakeholders for this initiative as understanding the social context usually has a big impact on the way you think about and communicate milestones / deliverables early on.
Once you have a first grasp on the outcomes / objectives and the social context, you start thinking about the necessary steps to achieve this target. The easiest way is to just plan independent steps. You will anyway translate those high level steps later on into sprints or however your process is set up.
It is just important that you create independent steps and you get a first understanding what comes first and what goes next. It is all about grouping the relevant actions together and to get a first understanding of the sequence.
As you want to also understand how long this process will take you map the actions along a timescale.
As you think about actions to achieve a final target scenario you most likely will already be able to create value for the company and the user along this journey.
Therefore, try to understand the impact of each step on your company as well as on the user. In case of a digital product this will give you early on ideas about possible releases.
Risks and risk mitigation
The same goes for potential risks along this journey. You want to understand as early as possible what potential risks might happen along this journey to include in your action plan already steps for risk mitigation.
Of course, you will not know everything and when you use an action plan map you most likely have a lot of blind spots. But this is exactly why you start thinking about success factors and risks already when you start drafting the action plan. You will iterate this plan after each achieved step and at some point this initial action plan will be replaced by other – more precise – planning tools. But as long as you are in the initial phase of a new initiative / product / service this simple action plan does a really good job in building a common understanding across the core team and relevant stakeholders such as sponsors.
This might also be another good starting point for you to create the action plan. In my experience, the people who work on the action plan usually have already a common understanding on the core team. This doesn't need a lot of alignments upfront.
What often happens is that once you have carved out the action steps you start getting a richer understanding of what the core team should entail:
- What skills are needed to execute those actions?
- What additional resources does the team need?
- Who will be responsible and accountable?
- What dependencies will there be along this journey? It might be that you heavily rely on another department / team before you can even execute certain actions. You will have explored this when you checked the risk but now you can already provide a deeper understanding of the dependencies the core team will face.
The action or project plan map is a tool to align and co-create on the initial phases of an initiative / a product or service. It is a draft and it must be iterated. Especially, when you start from greenfield there are many learnings with each action step taken. Therefore, it is essential that you re-visit this draft over and over again and adapt it to changing process needs.
Such a simple overview of the whole project can be used until a first MVP is build. You will replace the rough planning with very detailed planning tools such as Story Mapping as you move on. But do not forget to always keep a high level overview of the outcomes, the objectives, the relevant actions and the social context as you move along as this tool can also be a valuable communication tool later on in the process.
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