When you write an action plan, it is more than just how to get organized. The primary purpose of the action plan is to serve as the controller’s tool to communicate with the Owner(s)/Management the goals to be achieved and the relative priorities. It is important that your action plan template provide fields for a detailed description of the tasks, the assignee, the due date, priority, current status, and completion date.
The action plan is a means to communicate scope to management. By communicating your scope of work, it serves as a tool to manage expectations and to assist in the setting of priorities…especially when the number of projects start to stack up. The value of the action plan in this latter part is immeasurable entrepreneurial owners tend to load up on more projects than either time or money will permit!
Once you have a firm grasp of the situation at hand, you can now formulate the tasks that need to be accomplished. These tasks should be listed on the Action Plan and communicated to the Owner(s)/Management. A discussion can then take place as to the relative importance of these projects as well as the resources and time required to complete them.
This meeting usually occurs within a short time of the controller’s hire. The individual who will ultimately be responsible for implementing the Action Plan should ideally prepare it.
In entrepreneurial companies, the primary liaison will typically be the Owner(s) of the firm. However, there may also be key management staff that you will need to interface with. It will be important for you to meet with all of them, although not necessarily all at the same sitting.
When meeting with the Owner/Management of the company, it is important to go into the meeting with the frame of mind come out with specific, measurable tasks to accomplish. Out of your meeting, you want to be able to put on paper something tangible. Why is this important? It’s important because a tangible task is a task that you can accomplish…without much debate as to the results.
After you have met the Owner/Management, the next step will be to meet with pertinent staff. The Owner/Management of the firm should be able to point you in the right direction in terms of who to talk to. One thing to keep in mind when meeting with the staff is that the issues the Owner(s)/Management present may or may not be the root cause of the true problems present at the company. The staff working at the company may have an entirely different take on what is ACTUALLY happening. Once you have a firm grasp of the situation at hand, you can now better formulate the tasks that need to accomplished. These tasks should be listed on the Action Plan and communicated to the Owner(s)/Management. A discussion can then take place as to the relative importance of these projects as well as the resources and time required to complete them.
Meetings with individual staff may occur over several encounters depending on their availability and/or new facts that come to light. However, it will be important to meet as many people as possible initially if for no other fact than to establish trust and relationships.
After having met with the Owner/Management, take some time to organize your thoughts and get a game plan together as to who you need to see. Having done so, you are now ready to start the fact-finding mission. Keep in mind though, that this process is as much about trust and relationship building as it is about fact finding. A lot of times, the company’s staff will know things that the management doesn’t know. They also will be able to provide clues as to how to best approach the Owner/Management of the client company. As is the case with meeting the Management/Owner, listening will be your best tool.
Once you have had a chance to meet with all the pertinent parties, it’s now time to assess the particulars of what the problem is and how you can add value. The meeting with the principals will usually provide the general direction, if not specific projects to work on. The company’s staff will also provide the consultant with important perspective on the problem.
Once you have a firm grasp of the situation at hand, you can now better formulate the tasks that need to be accomplished. These tasks should be listed on the Action Plan and communicated to the Owner(s)/Management. A discussion can then take place as to the relative importance of these projects as well as the resources and time required to complete them.
Draw up the initial list of tasks and projects after you meet with the Owner/Management and the company’s staff. However, you’ll find that as time goes on, the management/owners will assign more projects to you.
When you write an action plan, update it constantly to help communicate as to what you are involved in and your priorities.
Feel free to add additional fields in order to tailor the Action Plan to your specific situation. Possible additions include columns for resources, such as who to leverage off of or who it is assigned to.
In addition, this task list could very well serve as the basis for a Gantt Chart for managing a project. Consider putting this on the public drive so that everyone can see the status of projects.
Once you have completed your list and/or updated it, you should arrange to meet with the Owner/Management to review it. Having finished reviewing the list, you and the Owner/Management should mutually agree on the priorities. Periodically review the list and rearrange priorities as necessary.
Whenever possible, try to leverage off of the company staff. This provides several benefits. First, leveraging off of the company staff speeds the process along. Second, this frees you up to do higher level value-added tasks.
Since you are working off of the action plan, update it continuously to provide you with a situational awareness of the task list. As projects become complete, new ones will be created. As such, it is also important to re-prioritize your action plan.
Prioritize the tasks by their: task, due date, status and person assigned to handle. One of the first priorities is to improve the accuracy of the accounting information, without which you cannot function as a CFO/controller.
As you make progress on your task list, keep a status update on everything. Also note which staff member, if any, is working on it. You will shortly find that even as you strive to complete the tasks at hand, the Owner/Management will come up with even more things to do in short order. The Action Plan will help communicate what is left to do and the priority of each project. Review with management your progress to come to an agreement as to what’s important.
Draw up the initial list of tasks and projects after having met with the Owner/Management and company’s staff. However, you’ll find that as time goes on, the management and owners of the firm will assign more projects to you. Keep your action plan updated constantly. Then sort by task, due date, person assigned to handle or status.
Review the updated action plan to agree as to what the priorities and direction should be. This way, you manage expectations.
Update your action plan constantly to help you communicate to management what you are involved in and your priorities. To learn more financial leadership skills, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.