WHO does WHAT by WHEN? The most effective action plan framework

Nitesh Verma
3 min readOct 12, 2022

Lack of clarity about what to do and the expected outcome is the most common reason why initiatives at work often fail.

This applies to both internal action plans or client — vendor arrangements.

How do you ensure everyone is on the same page when they exit the action planning meeting?

A simple concept I was introduced to early in my career as a team coach — “Who does what by when”.

A framework for writing effective action plans.

Write every action plan in the “who does what by when” format.

  1. WHO will complete the action? The doer, the checker, the approver
  2. WHAT needs to be done? clear and specific. What are the associated KPIs
  3. WHEN? timeline or how often (the frequency)

And, don’t forget to check if WHO is aware of the HOW.

Simple format, works always. Bring clarity to work.


In the weekly sales review meeting, it’s observed that there aren’t enough new leads to work on. Someone needs to fix this else the sales pipeline would dry soon.

(P.S. If you are not using a software or spreadsheet to track leads, here is a free lead tracking sheet).

So the action plan for the marketing manager is to increase the number of leads. Let’s look at a bad example:

Increase new leads per week by 30%”.

OR “Increase new leads per week by 30% by spending 20% more on PPC Ads and scheduling one email campaign each week”.

The second example is slightly better, has some indication of HOW the WHAT is to be achieved. However, we need to do better.

The GOOD Example

First, “increase new leads by 30%” is an expected outcome and not an action. So, that needs to change.

Let’s use the “WHO does WHAT by WHEN” framework.

If the marketing manager or team needs to increase leads by 30% per week, WHAT is that they need to do? We have some indications in the second example shared above — increase PPC campaign spending by 20% and schedule one email campaign each week.

For this example, let’s stick to these two actions.

We have the WHAT. Lets talk about the WHO and WHEN.

  1. Anita (Marketing Manager) will share the PPC campaign report for the last twelve weeks by end of day today. Based on the report, share recommendations to pause campaigns that are not performing well and reallocate spends with a 20% higher budget for the top 10 campaigns. Revised campaigns to go live by end of this week.
  2. Mark (content planner) to prepare an email campaign calendar for the next six weeks and get it approved by end of day tomorrow. Suggest target database for each campaign, call to action, any planned offer and expected outcomes based on previous MIS.

Action points 1 and 2 mentioned above provide clarity to both Anita and Mark — what’s expected and when.

Before they leave the room and start working on the actionable, do check if they know HOW to implement these.

This is fool-proofing action planning and implementation at work.

What’s your preferred action planning framework? Share in the comments. And, do follow for more business management and problem solving insights.

Thanks You :-)



Nitesh Verma

Business Analyst, Blogger and Coach. I write about strategy, problem solving and people management.