How much detail should be in the Action Plan section of the work plan?

As much detail as the Program Manager and Bureau Chief need to manage the program. The Action Plan has three purposes. First, to help the Core Activity Manager plan the work over the current fiscal year and monitor progress. It is intended to be your "to do" list to help staff keep on track with what is needed to be accomplished this year. Second, the Action Plan serves as an agreement between the Program Manager, Bureau Chief, and Division Administrator of the work to be conducted. It clearly states what work is planned to be done over one year so that management and staff are on the same page. And third, the Action Plan will help Program Managers and upper management determine whether there is sufficient resources (labor and funds) to accomplish the planned work. This is a budgeting purpose. So in summary, the Program Manager and Bureau Chief together determines how much detail is needed to plan the work, evaluate budget resources, agree on expectations, and monitor progress.

What if my Core Activity is described in a detailed CDC grant document? Does the Action Plan still need to be filled out?

Yes. The HealthSTAT information system is intended to be the primary program management tool to manage all aspects of a program. Grants are obtained by the Division to implement programs that meet the needs of Montanans and carry out the Division's strategic plan, not to do only what the grant requires. Therefore a Core Activity being set up only to meet the needs of a grant does not meet the purpose of the management system. It is a subtle but important distinction, especially where one grant may help fund multiple Core Activities.

Options to help align Core Activity Work Plans and Grant required Work plans:

Option 1:

One approach is to include all of the grant components when developing the Action Plan in HealthSTAT, and then copy the contents from the Action Plan into the CDC information systems.

Option 2:

A second acceptable approach is to simplify the grant requirements in the Action Plan if the grant calls for a large amount of detail, and then include more detail in the grant documents. However, the Action Plan still needs enough detail to plan the work, evaluate budget resources, agree on expectations, and monitor progress. The Program Manager and Bureau Chief together determines the level of detail needed in the Action Plan.

What is the difference between a metric and a task?

Completing a task can be answered with a yes or no. Tasks describe a milestone or some work that is to be completed, and are listed in the Action Plan. For example, giving a presentation at a national conference is a task and should be listed in the Action Plan. Was the task completed, yes or no? A metric evaluates a numerical trend in performance over time. For example, “Annual percent vaccination coverage among children 19-35 months” shows the trend in immunization over the past few years. This metric can’t be answered with yes or no, but provides a number for each year. So if you can answer a proposed “metric” with yes or no, then it needs to be moved to the Action Plan as a task.

Who should be entering information into the HealthSTAT information system?

Everyone. The HealthSTAT information system is intended to be the primary program management tool, so all employees should be using it to coordinate and manage their work. The work involved in keeping HealthSTAT information current must be shared by everyone in order to keep it from being a burden to any one person. Entering information is a part of everyone’s job responsibility. Front line staff may need to enter the “Notes” column in the Action Plan with the latest status of a task assigned to them. Collecting data and updating metrics should be divided across several employees and not the sole responsibility of only one person. Program Managers should delegate maintaining Core Activity work plans to as many team members as possible. If staff don’t possess the skills needed, then ask your supervisors for coaching or contact the System Improvement Office for training. Program management is a shared responsibility of everyone.

How often should HealthSTAT be updated?

Weekly. Updating the HealthSTAT information system has to become a habit of spending small amounts of time frequently, on a regular basis, to update only a very few items at a time. Otherwise, saving all the updating until the week before the 6-month HealthSTAT progress review will create a lot of work to be done at once, which creates an unnecessary amount of stress and defeats the system’s purpose. Update new tasks and task status weekly; only a couple tasks will typically need updating each week. Update each metric as the data become available, at least monthly; the Summary Analysis typically requires editing only one or two sentences. Divide the updating into small bite-sized pieces and stay current.

How many metrics are required?

As few as possible, but as many as necessary. Use only the vital few as opposed to the important many. This may seem like a vague answer, but the metrics should tell the story of whether the program work is progressing as planned, and whether the work is producing the expected results. Each metric takes time (and money) to collect and analyze. So there should be as few metrics as possible, but still enough to effectively communicate progress and results. If you’re spending many hours analyzing and updating metrics, then you may be attempting to use too many metrics. Assess whether each metric is absolutely necessary.

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