The process of writing objectives down forces you to think through the steps you will have to take in order to accomplish them. The most reliable approach to writing objectives is to actually WRITE them. It should be more than a mental exercise. Clear objectives lead to clear work plans, also called activity plans or action plans.
Objectives state what must be done; action plans explain how it will be done, specifying all the work details that must be identified, assigned, and accomplished. By breaking down large tasks into simple actions, the tasks are more manageable and even seem easier. If the objectives are precisely stated and quantified, they will provide clear direction to the people actually doing the work. An objective is typically no longer than a paragraph, but an action plan can be many pages in length.
Facility managers need to communicate precise expectations to their staff if they expect to achieve optimal results. Begin by defining the objectives. Whether it’s specific tasks to accomplish on a certain day or the level of production the department or team should achieve for the year, to be an effective planner, it starts with setting good objectives. Objectives should:
- State a clear purpose (“to increase productivity by 10 percent . . .”).
- Be measurable (“assemble 50 additional television sets . . .”).
- Specify a time frame within which they will be achieved (“every 8-hour shift . . .”).
- Specify the resources needed (“by operating an additional assembly line for subassemblies . . .”).
- Specify the quality of the output (“without increasing the rate of rejects above 2 percent . . .”).
- Be challenging but also attainable (“handle employee grievances within 24 hours”).
- Be stated in writing to increase commitment and understanding (“improve customer service through better coordination of schedules between maintenance and production supervisors”).
The more specific an objective is, the more likely it is to be accomplished. By quantifying how much will be done, when it will be finished, and who will do it using which resources, the plan leaves less possibility of misunderstanding or error. One format for writing clear, workable objectives is to answer the following:
- What’s the action?
- What’s the result?
- When’s it due?
- Who will check?
- What’s the purpose?
Writing Action Plans
The best way to write an action plan is to imagine doing the work, step-by-step, and then to write down the key details. The following checklist describes the order of the action planning process for a moderately complex project.
- List everything that must be done to accomplish the objective.
- List the tasks to be done in the order they should be finished.
- Identify by name who will do which tasks.
- List the resources that will be necessary for the completion of each task.
- Note the time needed for each task, including the estimated delivery time required for materials not already on hand.
- Consider the constraints that might upset the plan and note the steps that can be taken to avoid them.
- Write the plan on a chart that reflects the passage of time, such as an event calendar or a Gantt chart that shows the beginning and ending points of every activity.
- Identify the control points that will mark the progress of activity.
- Develop a backup plan just in case you cannot finish the action plan, or if you finish the plan early.
- Update the plan periodically to reflect feedback and the most current data.
- Refer to the plan frequently. Make it a dynamic part of your operations. It is actually easier to write a plan than to follow it!
Every successful plan specifies what or how much should be accomplished and when the work will be done. A plan is ready to be communicated to the people who will implement it only when clear, measurable objectives are supported by well-defined actions.
This article is adapted from BOMI International’s Managing the Organization course. In August, BOMI will launch the Sustain Smart Series. Visit www.bomi.org or call 800-235-2664 for more information.