How to Write an Action Plan (Examples Included)
Before you start any project, you have to draw up a plan to manage, organize, and realize the project’s goals. Planning is a crucial component of the project initiation phase of the project management life cycle.
The best way to turn your project objectives and goals into reality, and to avoid risks and challenges during the project management life cycle, is to use a solid action plan. You can use an action plan to create a clear path to success for any goal (personal, business, or financial goal).
In this article, you will learn how to write an effective action plan and why you need one for your project.
Let’s get started.
What is an Action Plan?
An action plan is a comprehensive plan on how to reach a goal. This is a step-by-step process you have to perform to attain your goal.
Every organization has a guideline or strategy in place to achieve its goal, be it small or big. An action plan can work towards a quarterly or yearly goal. This will include setting goals and objectives that are realistic to achieve.
A goal is the primary objective of an action plan. An action plan does not only exist in organizations, but it is very useful in our day-to-day life.
When you set a goal, an action plan has to be in motion to bring such a goal to life. Some processes or structures have to be in place to create an action plan.
Ask the following questions before you write an action plan.
- What are the goals you need to achieve?
- What methods will go into achieving them?
- What is the end goal of these goals and objectives?
You also need to follow processes to set an effective action plan.
1. Setting A Goal
The first step for writing an action plan is to set a goal. When you discover the goal of the whole operation, you can then draw up an action plan to achieve it. The purpose of this is to create or have a picture of what the goal is going to be about. This ensures that you set a realistic goal.
During the process of setting a goal, consider the following.
- The goal must be clear and actionable
- Must be realistic
- Must have a completion date
Organizations at this phase create a project charter to sketch out the goals and objectives.
2. Structures to Achieve the Goal
These are the guidelines or step-by-step plans to achieve the goal. During this stage, you write a well-described and outlined plan. The action plan is a guideline for achieving the already set goal.
Break down the goal of the project into smaller units and tasks that will lead to the eventual progress of the goal. Set targets and deadlines, and share responsibilities and resources needed to achieve the goal.
Some of these structures to achieve the goal include:
- Listing the steps to be followed
- Establishing key goals and targets
- Identifying available resources
- Visualizing the goal
Why You Need an Action Plan
An action plan is a framework for how to complete a project effectively. One of the reasons why projects fail is due to a lack of planning. Many projects fail because they either did not carry out extensive research or they did not have a solid plan to bring all their goals to fruition.
Every goal must have a to-do list of all tasks that need to be accomplished to achieve an objective. An action plan guarantees a well-organized objective. You need this plan to stay on track and manage the progress of the project or goal.
1. Provides Motivation and Eliminates Procrastination
An action plan is simply a to-do list that one checks till a task or goal is accomplished. A well outlined and organized arrangement of your plan encourages one to start and complete the task. Breaking the task into smaller units makes it feel less overwhelming and cumbersome.
Ticking your to-do list makes the progress of the goal visible. You can easily track milestones and accomplishments of the set objective.
2. Sets Direction and Priorities
One of the benefits of writing an action plan is that it establishes direction and priorities for your goal. It defines the whole purpose of the operation. In an organizational setting, it can be likened to a project charter. This represents a sketch of what the end goal should look like or should be.
An action plan helps the project team to stay on track and focus on the purpose of the project without going outside of the main objective. This prevents the waste of time and resources on scope creep. If eventually, you have to make changes, there will be adjustments that will easily fit into the project.
3. Uncovers Weaknesses and Opportunities
In the course of drawing up an action plan, one uncovers both the strengths and weaknesses of the project. An action plan provides you with a better chance of adjusting and creating a better plan for your goal or project.
The weaknesses uncovered could be the risk involved in the project. The action plan helps you discover the weaknesses and how to quickly eliminate them before the project begins.
During the process of writing an action plan, one can also find opportunities that can be generated from it. An action plan will force you to think strategically to deliver insights that will improve your project.
How to Write an Action Plan
There are seven steps to follow that serve as a guideline for writing a strategically well-detailed action plan.
1. Define Your Goals
The first step to writing a good action plan is to define the goal, be it a personal or business plan. Break down the overall goal into smaller, easier, and understandable sub-goals.
The reason for this is that, when people start to accomplish a task, the first impression they will develop is that it will take lots of time and energy. Breaking down the goal into smaller units will make it easier to understand and accomplish
By defining the goal, you understand what it takes to achieve it. It is at this stage you decide if you can go through with the plan. The goal you define should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.
2. List the Key Objectives
Listing priorities is another important step when writing an effective action plan. What are these priorities? They are the key elements that form the goal of what you want to achieve.
By listing the key objectives, you know where to focus on majorly or areas that will require more attention.
3. Create a Step-by-Step Guideline to Achieve Your Goal
A guideline ensures you do not get stuck during the process of achieving your aim. Many businesses have failed due to getting to a particular segment of achieving their goal and not knowing what to do next. Creating a step-by-step guideline ensures there is the next thing to do.
4. Set Targets and Deadlines
Time is a very important factor when setting a goal. During the process of trying to achieve the aim of the project, you can easily lose track of time if you do not track it.
When a goal drags on for a particular period, it can lead to loss of interest or the goal might fail to accomplish what it was intended for.
5. Identify Available Resources
An action plan should have an estimate of the resources available. When talking about resources, this is not just in terms of financial resources but also human resources. This refers to the number of teams on the ground to achieve the goal.
The essence of identifying available resources is to manage them effectively to achieve a specific goal.
6. Set Milestones
In every sector of life, the show of success no matter how little serves as a morale booster. Setting milestones helps you keep track of the project’s progress.
When working on a project, after completing a milestone, no matter how little the step is, it is important to celebrate or mark that milestone.
Milestones show progress. The essence of setting milestones is to give morale and motivation to your team members to do more work. A good practice is to reward team members when they accomplish a set milestone to show appreciation for their effort and encourage them to accomplish more.
7. Monitor and Evaluate the Plan
Monitoring and evaluating the plan is the last section of an action plan. This is where you evaluate the whole plan, check for the loopholes, and whatever was missed when writing the plan. It also leaves room for adjustments and scope creep.
Tips for Writing an Effective Action Plan
1. Involve Team Members and Experts
This goes with the saying that “no man is an island.” No matter how much you understand a project, you need to involve team members and experts for better opinions and inputs. Following this tip allows for growth and communication among the team.
When opinions are welcomed from the team, this helps develop the project and might even uncover a greater benefit to the project. There are certain aspects of the project you may miss which your team members can pick up.
2. Have a Timeline
Getting your timing right is key to the success of any project. Having a timeline guiding all the activities you want to carry out in the project is crucial. A well-established timeline for your project ensures that you accomplish all tasks and milestones at the appropriate time.
3. Communicate the Plan
Communication is the foundation upon which a project can develop. When communication is in place, there will be a smooth transfer of information from one section to another. This is key because, without communication, the goal will remain stagnant.
4. Tick Off Items As You Accomplish Them
After completing an item or task in your project, mark them as completed. Doing this will make it easy for you to know the items or tasks you have completed and the ones that are still pending.
Ticking off items as you accomplish them can boost the morale of the team and encourage them to put in more effort to achieve the project.
5. Write an Action Plan Template
Writing an action plan template helps you save time and energy. Instead of having to create an action plan from scratch each time you need one, you can write or collect action plan templates you can edit to fit your needs.
Since the format for writing an action plan is similar for many projects or goals, writing an action plan template is a great idea.
6. Use a Project Management Tool
The best project management tools help you write effective action plans and keep you on track. Project management software like Monday.com, ClickUp, and Wrike have project planning and reporting features that help you monitor the progress of your project and the performance of your project team.
Action Plan Template
An action plan template makes it easier and faster for you to create an action plan for your goal or project. While almost every action plan template follows the same format, modifications vary depending on its purpose and the industry.
1. Business Action Plan
2. Marketing Action Plan
3. Sales Action Plan
4. Project Action Plan
5. Corrective Action Plan Template
Action Plan Example
An example of an action plan for a marketing agency.
Problem: Slow growth due to lack of sufficient employees and clients.
Goal: Increase profit by 50% within three years.
We expect our marketing agency to increase our profitability by 150% as we increase our marketing and customer service team and attract more clients over the next three years.
Current State of Our Agency: Annual profit of $100,000, six employees, and fifteen clients.
Our Agency in Six Months: Training for our existing customers in marketing and customer service and our profit will increase by 10%.
Our Agency in 12 Months: Annual profit of $150,000, ten employees, and 25 clients.
Our Agency in Three Years: Annual profit of $225,000, fifteen employees, and fifty clients.
Action Plan to Achieve Our Goal
Task 1 – Training
Action: Train all employees in the latest marketing and sales trends, client acquisition, and customer service.
Completion Date: August 2022
Person Responsible: Project Manager
Task 2 – Recruitment
Action: Work with the HR manager to hire new employees that fit the skill sets needed to achieve the agency’s goal.
Completion Date: November 2023
Person Responsible: Project Manager
Task 3 – Improve Customer Service
Action: Improve relations with clients to convert them into repeat customers by updating the agency’s website, taking note of their birthdays, and sending customized gifts showing the agency’s logo to them.
Completion Date: Ongoing
Person Responsible: IT Manager
Task 4 – Generate More Sales
Action: Organize meetings with clients and in-house staff to develop the best strategies for increasing sales conversions.
Completion Date: January 2024
Person Responsible: Sales Manager
Action: Run marketing campaigns on Google, Facebook, and Instagram to generate more sales for clients.
Completion Date: March 2024
Person Responsible: Marketing Manager
Task 5 – Reduce Friction at Payment Channels
Action: Optimize your payment clients for a seamless payment experience for your clients and increase the number of payment channels
Completion Date: May 2024
Person Responsible: IT Manager
Task 6 – Expand Client Base
Action: Participate in relevant regional marketing summits to hunt for high-paying clients.
Completion Date: June 2024
Person Responsible: Sales Manager
Action: Target weaknesses in competitors’ services and offers and create better deals to attract more clients.
Completion Date: October 2024
Person Responsible: Sales Manager
Evidence of Success: Annual profit of $225,000 or more.Tracking and Evaluation Process: Assess staff size, client number, and profits.