What is 5W2H and how to make an action plan

Despite being detrimental to the execution of projects, many people spend more time planning than getting their hands dirty. Procrastination, then, becomes one of the main culprits of low productivity and, consequently, of delayed deliveries of projects. But we have good news: there are ways to prevent this from happening! Use methodologies such as 5W2H, which helps to structure quick, objective and complete action plans. Keep reading and learn what it is and how to make a 5W2H action plan to eliminate procrastination and increase productivity in your company!

What is 5W2H?

5W2H is an acronym that represents the 7 questions that must be asked when drawing up an action plan (5 beginning with W and 2 with H). Are they:

  • “What?”, Which means “what?”
  • “Why?”, Which means “why?”
  • “Who?”, Which means “who?”
  • “Where?”, Which means “where?”
  • “When?”, Which means “when?”
  • “How?”, Which means “how?”
  • “How much?”, Which means “how much?”

The objective behind these questions is to gather as much information as possible about the activity that is planned to be carried out, from more general data, such as what the activity is and why it needs to be carried out, to more specific details such as the delivery time. and the person responsible for it. As it is a simple methodology, it is possible to use 5W2H in the most varied contexts: from financial control to the execution of large projects.

For example, when planning the execution of an activity related to hiring a new employee , you can make a 5W2H action plan like this:

  • What? (What?) Hire a new employee for the administrative sector.
  • Why? (Why?) Because the demand is growing and has become greater than the capacity of the current team.
  • Who? (Who?) Roberta, HR professional.
  • Onde? (Where?) At the company office.
  • When? (When?) Until the end of the month.
  • How? (How?) First, the vacancy will be announced. Then, those interested will be called for individual interviews at the company’s headquarters, and will be interviewed by Roberta. Following the organization’s own criteria, one of the candidates will be selected. Luiza, who is an administrative assistant, will be responsible for the legal procedures of the hiring process.
  • How much? (How much does it cost?)  The budget released for the hiring process is $ 50 to advertise the vacancy, 10 hours of work for the HR professional and 3 hours for the administrative assistant.

This is just a simple example of how the 5W2H action plan works. Now, let’s understand in more detail what each W and H of this methodology means:

What

In addition to helping to identify the action plan, the “what” also helps those who are analyzing the plan to understand exactly what will be done, clearly. Sometimes, similar activities of the same project end up being mixed and their execution is hampered. So be sure to give an appropriate title for your activity.

Why

Every action must have a justification since, in addition to demanding time from employees, it can also consume the organization’s financial resources. So try to describe in practical terms the reason why the activity is being developed.

This can even help prioritize activities, given that, being aware of the reasons, the manager can see which activities are most critical and need to be completed in advance.

Who

As much as there may be several people involved in the execution of an activity, it is important to appoint a person responsible for each one. After all, as the saying goes, a dog with two owners dies of hunger.

You can appoint a department to be responsible for performing the task, if it involves several areas of the company, but if the activity is restricted to a department, the best option is to name only one person.

Where

It may seem obvious, but it is very important to determine where the activity will take place. In some cases, the activity needs to be carried out in more than one place, and if this is not included in the 5W2H action plan, travel costs will be forgotten when making the budget.

When (when?)

The “when” is essential information for any activity because, without a defined deadline, tasks tend to be procrastinated and forgotten. So be sure to set a clear (and realistic) deadline and record it in the action plan.

How (how?)

When a person consults the 5W2H action plan, they should be able to know everything about the activity, all the details, including the “how to do it”. Depending on the complexity, you can describe the process in steps and number them or, if not necessary, just give a brief description.

In any case, the important thing is that the plan serves as reference material throughout the process, after all, as time goes on, doubts may arise about how to carry out the proposed activities.

How much

Finally, the budget of the action plan must be estimated. In some activities this step may not be necessary, for example the creation of a website for the company, made by an employee already hired, which does not require any additional cost. In this case, you can suppress the H “how much?”, Transforming the methodology into “5W1H”.

But, for example, if the organization wants to create a new website and does not have qualified employees for this activity, it can choose to hire an outsourced web designer, and then pay an additional cost for the service. In this case, yes, the estimate of the budget is necessary, since it is not an estimated expenditure.

Now that you have the idea behind the 5W2H methodology, we can move on to the next topic. Let’s learn how to make a 5W2H action plan?

How to make a 5W2H action plan

To make a 5W2H action plan, the most important step is to answer the 7 questions that the method proposes, but it is not the only one. Pay attention to our step by step:

1. Choose support

Before thinking about answering 5W2H questions, choose a support to house your action plan. Ideally, it should be an online platform, so that the plan can be shared and consulted by everyone involved in the activities, as is possible in Google Spreadsheets, for example. In addition, spreadsheet programs have space for multiple action plans, so they are an interesting alternative for them to be stored over time.

You can draw up the action plan first on paper, together with others involved in the activity, and then pass the final version on to the program, or build it right on the tool, if you prefer.

2. Assemble the action plan template

After choosing the support you will use to build your 5W2H action plan, prepare the “skeleton” that will serve as a model for your plan. It should consist of 7 columns, for the questions “What?” “Why?” “Who?” “Where?” “When?” “How?” And “How much does it cost?”. The horizontal line will serve to describe the activity, so if you add more than one line, you can monitor several activities in the same action plan.

If you want, you can add more columns to number activities, track status (on time, overdue, delivered, etc.), priority and so on – it’s up to you. Here, we are presenting the classic model. In the end, your model should look like this example:

With the model in hand, you have the tool to build as many action plans as needed.

3. Fill in the information

Finally, the last step is to fill in the model with information about the activities you want to monitor. Answer the 7 questions clearly and objectively, bluntly. After all, the 5W2H action plan comes to facilitate the communication of activities, not to complicate.

Benefits of the 5W2H action plan

 

Reduces idleness and increases productivity

Idleness is one of the greatest enemies of productivity, and it is often triggered by a lack of information. A collaborator who does not know exactly what to do, what are the deadlines, objectives and methods for carrying out certain activities can be left out “, jeopardizing the team’s productivity and even the project’s life cycle.

That is why it is so important to have a complete document such as the 5W2H action plan, which leaves no doubt about the activities that need to be carried out within the organization. Knowing the deadline, the way of doing it and the reason behind the activity helps the employee to mobilize and commit to perform it.

Improves communication

As mentioned earlier, having a 5W2H action plan helps a lot in communicating activities.

The document implements a common language among the employees involved, since everyone can consult the same plan to obtain the information they need, which are centralized in one place.

Increases the ability to deliver on time

With productivity up to date and internal communication aligned, it is natural that the delivery capacity of the team is optimized. After all, the team will use time more consciously and will not waste time due to lack of information or to be “fishing” for information about activities in several different places.

Resource planning help

Did you see that the construction of a 5W2H action plan involves the definition of the costs that the action will demand, which should be indicated in the column “how much?”. The presence of this budget will help the organization to better plan the necessary resources and be sure how much it will have to spend on each activity.

This notion is important so that the company can plan future initiatives based on the availability of financial and human resources.

All these benefits and the simplicity of the 5W2H action plan make the method very efficient. It has been used for many, many years by different civilizations, for the most different purposes. There are people who use the method to plan trips, personal goals and even teachers use it to develop lesson plans.

It is difficult to pinpoint who invented the 5W2H, but some studies confirm that the origin of the concept is related to thinkers like Hermágoras de Temnos, Quintiliano and Aristotle. They believed that in order to fully understand an event or an object, it was necessary to get an answer to the 7 proposed questions.

Today, the concept is adapted by journalists, acting as a basis for investigating and reporting facts, and also by business administrators, as a way to define the details of the action plan of a project’s activities.

 

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