For as much as you love the idea of figuring out how to do business your way, you also want a clear-cut action plan. You sense that someone else has come along and figured out the best way to launch a program, turn a service into a product, or build a compelling brand, and you want to know the 1-2-3 step plan for making that happen.

But you’re also not naive. You know there’s no cookie cutter action plan that just works for everyone. So you try to create your own.

And you still come up short. You take action only to find yourself back in the weeds and confused about priorities.

Why does that happen?

I’ve been thinking about this problem quite a bit. I want to figure out why it is so easy for me to turn an idea into effective action and so difficult for so many other people.

Here’s my current hypothesis:

Your action plans fail because they assume your goals require linear action. You try to create a set of steps to follow instead of a strategic map that incorporates all areas of your business.

Once you’ve passed the startup stage of your business, all of your execution has to be integrated action instead of linear action.

Linear action is “first I do this, then I do that, then I’ll do the next thing.” Integrated action means knowing that when you act on one thing, it affects many other parts of your business. One simple action can create a chain reaction of necessary actions.

To get the most out of any plan, you need to account for how you’ll manage those chain reactions. Some, you’ll act on immediately. Those are the things that best support your strategy and help you create the most amount of leverage. Others, you’ll intentionally put on the back burner. You can’t do everything right away.

You also need to know your overall strategy for each area of your business so that once you realize a chain reaction is occurring in that area, you can act with intention in line with your strategy.

Here’s what that looks like in my business:

Integrated action plan for my business

I’ve started a complete restructuring plan for 2016. It includes changing the format and scope of the foundational Quiet Power Strategy™ program, adding additional outcome-oriented programs, and building multiple channels for new members to join our community.

I started by planning out the first 6 months of the year on giant calendars. This was linear action planning. Now I can see when I will start promoting, launching, selling, and delivering our new programs.

However, if that’s all I would do, my plan would fail.

Now that I have a basic structure for my 2016 plan, I need to rework many other parts of my business. I’ve decided to rebrand our membership community and incorporate it into Quiet Power Strategy™; I’ve decided to move from Mailchimp (sad face, still love ‘em!) to ConvertKit; I’ve created a plan for identifying, segmenting, and nurturing new members based on their interests so that we can connect them to the right offers.

Each one of those things (and the many other decisions and systems involved) warrants its own linear action plan. But again, without integrating that into the overall plan, those action plans are worthless.

If you try to reduce your action plans to linear action, you’ll always (and I mean, always) come up short. A formula—even one of your own creation—is just never good enough. One step in that formula will always lead to another chain reaction of steps.

This is also why it feels like you’re regularly biting off more than you can chew. Once you get started on a good plan, it quickly spirals out of control because you realize just how much more there is to do.

One way I’ve found to effectively combat this problem is to pre-mortem my plans. A pre-mortem is essentially a way to reverse engineer your problem-solving and incorporate it into your action plan to begin with. When you do a pre-mortem, pretend your plan has utterly failed—the patient is dead on the table—then list any and all reasonable factors that could have contributed to its failure.

Once you have that list, countermeasures need to be integrated into your action plan. Now, you have an integrated action plan.

As you turn your focus to the next phase of your business, pay special attention to the chain reactions that necessarily occur because of the decisions you make. Create plans that anticipate and incorporate these chain reactions so that you’re not left in a lurch with your action planning.