The Easy Guide to Developing an Effective Action Plan

Planning on turning your vision into reality? And what’s your best way to avoid challenges and problems during this journey? A solid action plan. 

We have outlined 6 steps explaining how to write an action plan. Once you familiarize yourself with them, go ahead and use the editable templates below to start planning right away.

What is an Action Plan

An action plan is a checklist for the steps or tasks you need to complete in order to achieve the goals you have set. 

It’s an essential part of the strategic planning process and helps with improving teamwork planning. Not only in project management, but action plans can be used by individuals to prepare a strategy to achieve their own personal goals as well.

Components of an action plan include

  • A well-defined description of the goal to be achieved 
  • Tasks/ steps that need to be carried out to reach the goal
  • People who will be in charge of carrying out each task
  • When will these tasks be completed (deadlines and milestones)
  • Resources needed to complete the tasks
  • Measures to evaluate progress

What’s great about having everything listed down on one location is that it makes it easier to track progress and effectively plan things out.

An action plan is not something set in stone. As your organization grows, and surrounding circumstances change, you will have to revisit and make adjustments to meet the latest needs.

Why You Need an Action Plan 

Sometimes businesses don’t spend much time on developing an action plan before an initiative, which, in most cases, leads to failure. If you haven’t heard, “failing to plan is planning to fail” said Benjamin Franklin supposedly once. 

Planning helps you prepare for the obstacles ahead and keep you on track. And with an effective action plan, you can boost your productivity and keep yourself focused.  

Here are some benefits of an action plan you should know;

  • It gives you a clear direction. As an action plan highlights exactly what steps to be taken and when they should be completed, you will know exactly what you need to do. 
  • Having your goals written down and planned out in steps will give you a reason to stay motivated and committed throughout the project.  
  • With an action plan, you can track your progress toward your goal.
  • Since you are listing down all the steps you need to complete in your action plan, it will help you prioritize your tasks based on effort and impact.

How to Write an Action Plan | Best Practices

From the looks of it, creating an action plan seems fairly easy. But there are several important steps you need to follow with caution in order to get the best out of it. Here’s how to write an action plan explained in 6 easy steps.

Step 1: Define your end goal 

If you are not clear about what you want to do and what you want to achieve, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Planning a new initiative? Start by defining where you are and where you want to be. 

Solving a problem? Analyze the situation and explore possible solutions before prioritizing them. 

Then write down your goal. And before you move on to the next step, run your goal through the SMART criteria. Or in other words, make sure that it is 

  • Specific – well-defined and clear
  • Measurable – include measurable indicators to track progress  
  • Attainable – realistic and achievable within the resources, time, money, experience, etc. you have
  • Relevant – align with your other goals 
  • Timely – has a finishing date 

Use this SMART goals worksheet to simplify this process. Share it with others to get their input as well.  

SMART Goals Worksheet
SMART Goals Worksheet (Click on the template to edit it online)

And refer to our easy guide to the goal-setting process to learn more about setting and planning your goals.

Step 2: List down the steps to be followed 

The goal is clear. What exactly should you do to realize it? 

Create a rough template to list down all the tasks to be performed, due dates and people responsible. 

Simple Action Plan Template How to Write an Action Plan
Simple Action Plan Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

It’s important that you make sure that the entire team is involved in this process and has access to the document. This way everyone will be aware of their roles and responsibilities in the project.

Make sure that each task is clearly defined and is attainable. If you come across larger and more complex tasks, break them down to smaller ones that are easier to execute and manage. 

Step 3: Prioritize tasks and add deadlines

It’s time to reorganize the list by prioritizing the tasks. Some steps, you may need to prioritize as they can be blocking other sub-steps. 

Add deadlines, and make sure that they are realistic. Consult with the person responsible for carrying it out to understand his or her capacity before deciding on deadlines. 

Step 4: Set Milestones 

Milestones can be considered mini goals leading up to the main goal at the end. The advantage of adding milestones is that they give the team members to look forward to something and help them stay motivated even though the final due date is far away.

Start from the end goal and work your way back as you set milestones. Remember not to keep too little or too much time in between the milestone you set. It’s a best practice to space milestones two weeks apart.  

Step 4: Identify the resources needed

Before you start your project, it’s crucial to ensure that you have all the necessary resources at hand to complete the tasks. And if they are not currently available, you need to first make a plan to acquire them. 

This should also include your budget. You can assign a column of your action plan to mark the cost of each task if there are any.  

Step 5: Visualize your action plan

The point of this step is to create something that everyone can understand at a glance and that can be shared with everyone. 

Whether your action plan comes in the shape of a flowchart, Gantt chart, or table, make sure that it clearly communicates the elements we have identified so far – tasks, task owners, deadlines, resources, etc. 

This document should be easily accessible to everyone and should be editable. 

Step 6: Monitor, evaluate and update

Allocate some time to evaluate the progress you’ve made with your team. 

You can mark tasks that are completed as done on this final action plan, bringing attention to how you’ve progressed toward the goal.

This will also bring out the tasks that are pending or delayed, in which case you need to figure out why and find suitable solutions. And then update the action plan accordingly. 

Action Plan Templates

Business action plan 

Business Action Plan How to write an action plan
Business Action Plan Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Marketing action plan

Marketing Action Plan Template
Marketing Action Plan (Click on the template to edit it online)

Strategic action plan

Strategic Action Plan Template
Strategic Action Plan (Click on the template to edit it online)

Corrective action plan template 

Corrective Action Plan Template
Corrective Action Plan (Click on the template to edit it online)

Action plan template

Action Plan Template
Action Plan Template (Click on the template to edit it online)

Any More Tips on Creating an Action Plan? 

An action plan is designed to guide your way to accomplishing your goals. It turns your vision into actionable goals and steps. And it helps you stay focused and motivated. 

From an individual employee in an organization to larger departments can make use of action plans to steer their way towards completing their goals. 

Maybe you are about to create your very first action plan, or you are already a pro in writing them. Either way, we’d like to hear your opinions on how to write an action plan. Do share them with us in the comments section below. 

Author

Amanda Athuraliya

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

Leave a Comment

*
*

5 × three =

Back to top