5 Steps to Design a Slightly Clean Breakthrough Action Plan

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When working with clients, we often find a level of ‘fuzziness’ around something that they want to work on; could an action plan help? This technique invites the coaching client to start thinking with more clarity and purpose.

The Process

Plan model


Having identified that the client wishes to work on improving their focus, we now need to provide that safe space for them to explore and plan.

Ask questions to help the client to understand more about their position.

What would you like to happen in this situation?

And what needs to happen for this to happen?

The last question is repeated until the client has nothing else to add. Encourage silence and thinking around the questions to help the client develop and understand what should be on the list of tasks to achieve their outcome.


Understanding the various actions that need to be completed to achieve an outcome invites the client to think about where to start. Use a question such as:

What needs to happen first for this to happen?

Ask them to identify challenges in this step. Is the client genuinely motivated to achieve the outcome that they have defined? Suggest to the client that they make a note of this first step.

Then ask them:

What needs to happen next?

Continue with this question until they have used all their ideas from the purpose phase. Ensure that the client records the steps in a way that works with them. The way the client records could be a list; for others, it could be a process flow chart or a mindmap.


The client now has a plan of action that they can work toward. The action now needs to have a timeline put against it. Remembering the SMARTER method can help here.

Against each of the recorded steps in the Plan, ask the client to record an actual time for completion of that step – gaining commitment that this is something that they will work toward.

Ultimately, the level of engagement with the client is one for contracting. However, the outcomes of the action step should be one that the client firmly owns.


As an after activity for you as a coach, think about the steps you worked through with the client.

Were there any ‘sticky’ moments? How could you have reduced the ‘stickiness’?

What could you have done better to assist in the process of coaching?

What could you do next time to assist the client get the most they can out of this type of process?